As I turned on the national news, two "experts" were
debating one of the societal issues that divide this country. For
minutes their ping-ponged comments volleyed about a controversial
book and a soon-to-be-released movie.
Then, the commenter asked both guests if they had either read the
book or seen the pre-released movie. "No," answered the first man
"but I've heard from people who have." "No," answered the second,
"but I've read about it."
What surprised me most was not their lack of personal experience with
the issue they were debating, but their aggressive expounding of
someone else's opinion. Regurgitating another's thoughts is not thinking.
That same situation happens at work. People pass off others' thinking
as their own. They parrot others' issues without personal analysis.
And they embrace others' perspectives as if it was their original
thought. But these repackaged perspectives hamper innovation,
personal growth, and business results.
Psychologist Rollo May put it this way, "In modern society, the
opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity." And thought
conformity hampers more than careers.
I ran across an article recently advocating that you should, "Tell
your boss what she wants to hear." Having been a boss for over twenty
years, I know first hand that's bad advice. Independent thinkers are
a prized workplace commodity, and thought conformity will not help
you to be winning at working.
Regurgitating others' thoughts is not thinking; repackaging others'
opinions is not thinking; conformity in thought is not thinking.
Thinking is using your judgment, reasoning, and inference to attain
clear ideas and reach conclusions. Thinking is work. And people who
are winning at working know how important it is to their results,
their careers, and their engaged endeavors to do that work.
You won't be winning at working if you don't develop your independent
thinking muscle. Packaging opinion as fact, passing off rumor as
truth, and fueling speculation with personal belief is not
substantive thinking. But it's substantive thinking that builds your future.
People who are winning at working recognize that just because
something sounds credible, certain, and believable, doesn't make it
true. They question, challenge, and probe, just like that news
commenter. They embrace alternative perspectives, conflicting input,
and divergent information. They welcome thoughtful exchange, debate,
and dialogue. And they're opened to being challenged and thoughtfully engaged.
You see, for people who are winning at working thought conformity
hampers their creativity, independent analysis, and reflective
judgment. When a boss asks them what they think, they're ready with
coherent and reflective thoughts. That thinking difference makes all
©2007 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on webtalkradio.net. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at http://www.nanrussell.com.