Sunday, January 29, 2012

Easy A or risk an F

“Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything – from an A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.” (Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, 1974)

I’m reading this philosophical novel and crossed this paragraph. The situation that Pirsig was describing in the classroom is very comparable to the workplace when it comes to leaders. Leaders step out and try new things. They are often misunderstood by their peers and bosses because it is hard to separate the results from the methodology. Leaders often do things in a different and more productive way. This confuses people. The results get lost in the discussion. The blog post “Pioneers are lonely” from November 2009 shared this same sentiment in a different setting.

Do you encourage your people to be just like you or to reach and try new approaches? Are you willing to support those different methods when put under pressure?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John, I just happen to visit this blog site. On this one, I read this book long time back (1996) and remember the essence as 'It's not only doing things differently, but doing things differently by transferring powerful thoughts into actions. The difference is 'Thinking'.

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