‘Familiarity breeds contempt’, the proverb says. But in management, it also breeds lost of content and satisfied people.
We are sometimes too close to the problem and the solution, to close to the dynamics of the team, too close to a culture which we don’t question anymore.
‘Confirmation bias’, makes us see the world in the way we have decided it needs to be seen. We are too close to its patterns, to its rules.
We tend to do whatever is next in the way we have always done it and, frankly, if successful, who is to blame? We are generally not detached; we are told we need to be very engaged, focused, committed, even passionate, far from indifferent. So we are close.
We are all a bit of Icarus ignoring his father’s advise of not to fly too low or to high. We get closer and closer to our everyday Sun. Low, low. And we melt a bit every time.
Bring the aliens
Bring to the teams people who are very distant from the topic. Bring to leadership people with the right leadership strengths but who perhaps are aliens to the domain, to the function, to the issues.
It’s hard. It sounds like a waste. With so many experts around, why would you not bring them? Perhaps because they are too experts.
Bring in the aliens, the detached, the ones who have nothing to lose, the ones who ask uncomfortable questions ( such as ‘why does it need to take two months?), the non familiar, the not close to ‘it’. Ask them to assess the project plan, to challenge the strategy, to ask many stupid questions.
Uncomfortable? Yes, for a more mechanistic and predictable internal talent management and for traditional succession planning, but it works wonders if well managed.
It’s not the introduction of the alien (new staff, new leader, new team member) for the sake of it, but with a mission to provide critical thinking and ask more questions than anybody else in a detached way.
You can prove almost anything you want in Management Theory but, for whatever is worth, a recent article supports the hypothesis that CEOs who are ‘dissimilar’ to the culture of the organization, tend to end up running a better performing one. In the trade this is called ‘the dissimilarity hypothesis’.
Bring in the aliens, the dissimilar aliens. Together with the indigenous, it may be a win-win. The indigenous have expertise, the aliens will ask inconvenient questions.