In Seth Godin’s recent post on the forces of mediocrity, he wrote,
Remarkable visions and genuine insight are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths… whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it’s over.
Seth is onto something powerful (duh, isn’t he always).
No doubt, those with the most innovative, earth-shattering ideas, the mavericks of the world, often endure serious bashing, before they are anointed visionaries. Where Seth and I differ, though, is that I don’t believe it’s mediocrity that underlies the resistance to people pushing innovation.
The problem is fear and entrenchment…
Marketing legend, Gary Halbert, once said Maslow got is wrong when, in his hierarchy of needs, he identified survival as the fundamental need motivating behavior. Instead, Halbert argued…
The most basic human need is to not have to step outside your comfort zone.
People will literally kick, scream and fight to the death before making changes or taking actions that force them outside the little box that so often not only defines, but confines their lives. Even when the net result will clearly leave them in a better place.
The gargantuan burden of overthrowing the status-quo…
Laszlo was speaking about the extraordinary difficulty of getting people to adopt new paradigms in sceince, but the analogy applies pretty universally.
It starts with an accepted, tested, proven way of doing things. A rule capable of handling nearly everything thrown at it. Over time, though, the more it’s tested, the more novel situations arise that the rule can’t really deal with very well.
At first, these situations are just written off as anomalies, outliers.
But, as more and more mount, people begin to question whether the original rule is really as good as it first seemed. The natural course would be try to find a new rule that can handle not only the original circumstances that gave rise to it, but also the mounting gaggle of nagging outliers and anomalies. The challenge is, by then, the original rule is no longer just the rule…
It has become conventional wisdom, beyond reproach…gospel!
By the time a bigger, better rule gains even the slightest momentum, the status-quo is often so entrenched that billions have been spent building institutions, frameworks all sorts of fancy trappings on the assumption that they are the irrefutable truth.
And, more importantly, widespread adoption of the old rule has very likely led its creators into positions of great respect and prestige.
Adopting a new rule, then, would require some level of admission by the dudes who created the prior rule that they weren’t quite right. And, it would also require an inevitable retrenching of all that’s been established to support that original rule. In essence…
Establishing a new paradigm means knocking off the creators of the old one…
So, there is massive motivation by the incumbents and those who’ve bought into the incumbents’ theory to crush any sort of new-wisdom capable of handling what they could not.
Anything less than an outright assault on the maverick bearers of the new rule would risk a potentially inconsolable loss of money and prestige by those now in power. At least that’s how it’s seen.
Which means that, just as Seth said, anyone arriving at the party with new knowledge, expecting a parade of cash and glory, is living on Mars.
New wisdom rarely gains acceptance without an extended period of near-masochistic suffering.
So, what’s the moral of this story?
If you come to the party with a gift cooler than the one brought by the old dude in the corner who everyone just happens to bow before as they pass, be prepared with some really good one-liners about his mama. Because, he’s gonna spend a lot of time and effort trying to paint you as an idiot in an attempt to make your gift look just plain stupid.
For those who know this in advance, though, and are willing to offer genuine innovation, take on the burden of change and hold on long enough for increasing numbers of people to awaken to your message…
The world will become yours!
So, I am curious, what do you think about this? How powerful do you think the need to avoid change really is?
Have you ever been on the maverick side of this equation?
Share your new wisdom below…
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