You may have heard the phrase ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.’ The origin of the quote is a bit murky – it is alternatively attributed to an ancient Chinese proverb, Alcoholics Anonymous medical specialist Dr. William Silkwood, Albert Einstein, a novel in 1938 by author Rita Mae Brown, and other sources.
I have never quite understood it – doing the same thing over and over agin could be indicative of many qualities – myopia, naïveté, stubbornness, perhaps a blind form of determination – but not necessarily insanity. Maybe the fact it is most often attributed to Einstein discourages too much second-guessing. I mean, who is really going to question Einstein?
Whatever condition it exposes, we can can probably agree that repeating the same approach when we want or need a different result is misguided and counter-productive. This is probably why the quote resonates; because we know there are times all of us fall subject to this type of foolhardy repetition. This quote has done tremendous good within Alcoholics Anonymous (and similar organizations dedicated to fighting addiction to gambling, narcotics, and other challenges) by prompting the self-examination required to enable real and lasting change.
And if we approach it in the same spirit, maybe it can foster the same type of self-examination that yields real change in our professional (and personal) lives. There are many professional approaches we repeat even though they have not produced the desired result in the past and are very unlikely to perform any differently in the present.
One prominent example I have been thinking about recently is the determination of organizations to forge ahead with a performance-driven approach while simultaneously communicating the need for innovation, open organization cultures, and dynamic effective communication systems. All of our organizational experiences tell us this is a failing approach. The available organizational sciences research predicts this and explains why the pattern occurs.
For the past year or so, we have participated in a private professional reading group that examines different organizational or technical topics. We would like to bring that discussion into the digital world on this blog. The next book we will be reading is ***Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. This book explores the impact that perceptions or assumptions about our talent or abilities can have on our personal or professional lives. Dr. Dweck identifies and describes two mindsets: fixed and growth. The assumptions drawn from each of these mindsets the view we hold and response we choose to all of the things around us.
Over the next few months, we will be posting highlights drawn on a chapter-by-chapter basis from Mindset, as well as providing original commentary covering:
- practical application of this material as a manager (or teacher, coach, parent, mentor, et al)
- understanding how group or team patterns are influenced or even dictated by the cognitive assumptions of individuals within the organization.
We invite you to read along with us and look forward to the discussion!
*** One final note – we sometimes post these Amazon affiliate links. If you buy this book, please buy via this link if possible. You may have noticed we do not push (or even offer) revenue generating services on this website such as consulting or coaching. It is not our goal to generate traffic to ‘convert’ into profit. Rather, it is our goal to build a collaborative network of like-minded professionals to learn and grow together. That being said, there have been some modest costs in standing up this website and purchasing materials via the Amazon affiliate program links allows us to recoup a portion of those costs. Thanks!