“When you’re labeled as an expert, it changes the way your mind works”, says Shankar Vedantam, social science correspondent for National Public Radio.
We’ve discussed what the power of confidence can do for your self-esteem and Behavioral EQ in previous blogs and whitepapers, but can too much praise have negative effects on your behaviors? This NPR story suggests that it can.
The story describes a series of experiments led by Victor Ottati at Loyola University in Chicago. His team researched whether the roles you inhabit change the way that you behave, the same way your role might change how you think of yourself, and thus behave, from your day job to going out to a bar after work. “Ottati wondered, is this also happening to people labeled as experts? Are they internalizing a role that calls for them to sound confident and dogmatic?”
Ottati conducted experiments where people were made to feel like they were experts by either giving them difficult tests or easy tests. It made some people feel knowledgeable, other people feel ignorant. He separated true experts, people that actually are exceptionally educated on a particular subject matter, from those who were just given the title for no particularly great reason.
According to Ottati, “I figured, geez, it would seem that if I could get people to sort of think of themselves, perhaps temporarily, as being an expert, they would become in fact more dogmatic in their style of thinking. Whereas, perhaps if I did the opposite, they would become more open-minded.”
And it was true. According to Ottati, “Success on these tests puts the person in a position of sort of temporarily feeling that they are an expert. And then we noticed that the people respond in a more close-minded manner than the people who have recently just failed.” Ottati came up with a term for this, he calls it the “earned dogmatism effect.”
So what does this mean for us? It means many times we feel like we are an expert in our career. We’ve done it for a certain length of time and we know everything about doing our job and the best way to do it, right? But the truth is feeling this way about ourselves and our career makes us rigid in our thinking. We can lose sight of attempting to be innovative and resilient. This means we can forget to explore other opportunities of doing things because we get stuck in a pattern of “this is the way it is.”
In order to remain an innovative and top-notch company, your employees, especially management, must remain flexible in their thinking. It’s natural for us to get comfortable with a certain way of doing things. For example, when a new hire has all of these grand ideas on how things should be done, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that they don’t know what they are talking about because we’re the expert. We’ve worked here longer and they aren’t. In order to be successful today we must be open to new ideas, even ones that might seem silly or over the top. Be adaptive to change. And inspire your workforce to be adaptive and open to new ideas as well.
Change is scary, and oftentimes involves a great deal of work that can be even more daunting. But motivating your employees to continue to challenge the status quo is what has made the most innovative companies the successes they are today.
Just look at the companies who are thriving. They have to reinvent themselves constantly. They might not even offer the same products or services that they had initially offered. Take Netflix who started out as a movie rental company which would mail you a new movie as frequently as you wanted, upon receiving the prior movie back. Now they are a movie and TV show streaming service who also has their own suite of highly recognized shows and movies
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. We all have biases and do not even notice when we become uncompromising in the way we do things. This is why TRACOM offers Adaptive Mindset for Agility programs and products. They help learners to become aware of their workplace biases and also learn which areas of Adaptive Mindset that they may falter in.