business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Apparently I am pretty smart.

At least that’s the supposition I can make from a quick look around my world. After all, on a wide range of issues I can easily find people who support my point of view. And I find them everywhere: On television, Internet blogs or even among Facebook friends.

The problem is that view is also wildly misleading. Like so many others, I can easily live in an echo chamber where my opinions and viewpoints are repeatedly validated even when they are wrong.

I was reminded about the importance of seeking out divergent viewpoints while collecting my grand-dog (yes, I have one and he’s wonderful) from the animal hospital this weekend. Doing the exact same thing with his own grand-dog was Charlie Cook, the political pundit.

While we haven’t worked together in years, I follow Charlie because he actually makes sense about the world of politics. He does that in part by understanding the dangers of the echo chamber.

Charlie said his world is more polarized than ever thanks to the rise of media sources that seem to exist only to reinforce the beliefs of their followers. Such thinking, he said, leaves us more convinced of our own brilliance and less willing to consider any other position.

Charlie said he purposely works his speaking schedule to include audiences from all parts of the spectrum to ensure that his messages don’t become stale or simply palatable to one group or another.

That’s a really important point. Hearing opposite views can really irritate us, but it is an invaluable way of ensuring we don’t get stale, arrogant or single-minded. When it comes to business, every one of those words is recipe for disaster.

How do we do it? Start with a lesson Kevin and I love to remember whenever we start feeling too good about what we do here at MNB, in part prompted by what we agree is more positive reinforcement than anyone deserves.

Don’t breathe your own exhaust.

Challenge yourself repeatedly, even when celebrating success. We all love accolades, but in a world of constantly new forms of competition we need to push ourselves for constant improvement. Good enough is never really good enough. Something better is always lurking around the corner.

Secondly, don’t assume there is only one way to do anything and certainly that your way is the only or best way. The competitive environment today is simply too dynamic to let that happen. Think of the improvements to your smart phone, your car or even certain items of clothing. Nothing is standing still and you can’t either.

Thirdly, get out of your own echo chamber. Our population is replete with people of diverse backgrounds and needs so make sure your work circle includes that diversity. What you find perfectly acceptable or consider common knowledge might somehow offend or completely confuse someone else based on gender, age or ethnicity. It’s not about being politically correct; it’s about understanding the wide range of needs your business serves.

None of this is easy, but easy is never the route to take. Branching out and engaging opposite ideas is not a sure way to build growth, but it certainly helps get you ready for whatever may come.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
KC's View: