Contrarians in the office

We may see leaves moving but we can not see the change in our core markets. Our ability to fit in, being complacent and friendly, generally make us useless as management team members or as corporate board directors.

Welcome to system 2. 
We may see leaves moving but we can not see the change in our core markets. Our ability to fit in, being complacent and friendly, generally make us useless as management team members or as corporate board directors..
Published 2016-04-10

Welcome to system 2

Did you know that there are more people living today than has ever died? The question is disliked by many people because they have to start their thinking engines – hard work for a lot of people. We are in what Daniel Kahneman call system 1, default mode, all day, or at least for 99,9% of the day. We rev up our thinking engines only occasionally and it is hard work. Our days pass and we hardly ever study what is going on around us.
    
It is estimated that there are 3 times more people that have died than is alive today and my statement above was a myth – but hopefully it got you going.
    
I recently attended a presentation by the CEO of SAS. He was really good but during the turnaround-story I noticed that the new SAS was all about that things in the airline industry think are important, things like connections and price. The same day I met with the CEO of a Stockholm-based company with operations in 86 countries. He confessed that he hated SAS because of the poor culture: “The most important people for SAS are the employees. They do not care if they arrive on time and the crew never goes the extra mile to make you comfortable.” I tend to agree. Why don’t they just ask the passengers what they think? Venture out of system 1 for a brief moment.
    
Man is good at many things but not at seeing the change around us. Leading academics and management consultants forecast that in 15 years most of the currently large companies will have disappeared, or be relatively small. 75% of the top 100 companies will not exist today. Right now, many of our household names are in the midst of digital tsunamis and still people go to work and plan their holidays as if they were still in the 1950s or 1960s when very little happened. We hate change.
    
Our brain is built for survival. Homo Sapiens has been around for some 125.000 years. If you compare the history of Homo Sapiens to a 200 cm foldable ruler there was a hunting dynasty for 180 cm, until farming increased in importance. Christianity as we know it started at 196 cm and the industrial revolution started just “2 millimeter ago”. Genetic selection during these 199 cm has been focused on survival and the abilities that made people survive were abilities to detect change and social skills.
    
So here we are today. We have genes that are perfect for detecting leaves moving at a distance and we have natural abilities enabling us to fit into the hunting team. Those abilities are generally useless in modern society: We may see leaves moving but we can not see the change in our core markets or among our competitors. Our ability to fit in, being complacent and friendly, generally make us useless as management team members or as corporate board directors. Meanwhile the digital tsunamis around us are picking up speed – the traditional company is on the way to extinction.
    
I use Uber because they totally solve a problem. I will not ride in a taxi ever again unless I absolutely have to.
    
An important conclusion is that followers may survive, but do you want to be that person, the follower? To be a contrarian means that you fight to get out of system 1 and enter the light of system 2. This is where we are not just reactive, we make conscious decision.
    
Directors and managements of corporations are generally lead by intuitive skills, thoughts and understandings. These are often right, but equally often incorrect. We are surrounded by myths. Because people, journalists, advisors, fellow directors, talk about things we follow. We are social animals which to a large extent is great but also means that we follow.
    
A great exercise is to think. I am not joking. Sit back in a silent room, close your eyes and really think about your present situation and more immediate decisions to be taken. Consider all stakeholders and weigh all alternatives. You are on the way to logical decisions. Welcome to system 2.
    

Ulf Löwenhav


The article was written by Ulf Löwenhav
Send email to ulf.lowenhav(at)reaktionvalue.com
Twitter @ulflowenhav

 

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