Growth5 Blog

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Are You A Self-Sabotager?

According to this article from Entrepreneur magazine, the reason why we react negatively to new ideas is because of our ancestors. They would step out of their cave on high alert and assess the level of danger as they scanned the horizon. This feature of the brain is called "danger surfing" and it saved our ancestors lives.

Great for our ancestors, thanks for staying alive, but our genetic predisposition for danger suffering could be holding us back. We danger surf because we think we are saving ourselves or other people from themselves. "That's the dumbest business idea I've ever heard, it will fail miserably and I will lose money. Next!" or "That will never work, don't waste your time."

It's one of the reasons I try to get entrepreneurs to approach investors conversationally and get the investors talking about the idea early on. If you just "pitch" to investors for 15 minutes straight without letting them build on the idea, oftentimes all they are thinking about is poking holes in your idea/presentation as to why it won't work. They will gladly fill you in on the details when your 15 minutes are up because they want to save you from yourself. Or because they like to hear themselves talk, probably a little bit of both.

Here are some decent tips from the article to help us avoid the self-sabotage that danger surfing causes:
1. “Yes and...” Do what improv actors do; play the “yes and…” game. Instead of looking for the flaws, be additive to the idea. The next time someone comes to you with an idea, no matter how half-baked, put your “but” out to pasture and expand on the idea. Not only will this be collaborative and lead to more creativity, it will also show you what an attractor behavior is like.

2. Create and evaluate separately. The formation of ideas and the evaluation of them are two entirely different brain processes. Let’s say you want to start a new venture, so you pull together your best business whiz pals in a meeting to help you with the idea. You’ll want to spring for two pizza-and-beer parties. One is to collect every whacked-out idea they can come up with in relation to your idea--no evaluation of the ideas, the brain will shut down creativity if you do. The second meeting is to evaluate and prioritize. Allow at least a week in between formation and evaluation so the brain can incubate. At the end of the first meeting, ask everyone to be thinking about the best possible combinations of ideas around your venture.

3. Count to ten. It takes approximately six seconds from the time a negative emotion is felt (i.e., disgust or disdain) and the dissipation of the hormones that make you want to blurt out a nasty remark. Your mom was right--count to ten before you speak. Let the visceral feelings die down, then speak. And remember to be additive.

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