Getting Out of the Echo Chamber
As a growth leader the one thing your organization can't afford for you to do is to get inside an echo chamber.
Sure, you're working hard to develop as a leader - reading and listening to books and podcasts, going to workshops and conferences, meeting regularly with others and soliciting their advice - but sometimes we get into a bubble where even all of that activity becomes self-referential, merely underscoring what we already know and believe, rather than truly challenging us.
And that, eventually, will kill our growth as leaders, and that of our organization.
In today's video, I share the tools, tips and techniques I use to stay outside of the echo chamber:
Running time: 10' 55"
Read The Transcript
Well here I am, it's Friday afternoon and we just finished our first quarter retreat for the Predictable Success Mastermind Group here at my Chesapeake Bay hideaway.
And as you can probably see over my shoulder, we (amongst many, many other things) had a great conversation about how to balance the tyranny of the urgent versus the demands of the important - one of the growth challenges that we all have: How do you get the important things done that aren't necessarily urgent, when urgent things that may not be important are screaming at us all day long?
And one of the great benefits of a group like this is the ability to not just, you know, get detailed, interaction and feedback on topics such as that, but to hear real world solutions (not just academic theories) from people who have faced exactly similar challenges. And, what I've noticed over and over again with a mastermind group like this is that it's the ability to see patterns in other organizations coming from other industries, other backgrounds, sharing across the for-profit / not-for profit-divide that really sparks that...
...The new stuff, the new tools that people leave with that they didn't have when they arrived.
And as I was talking in the last video about mastermind groups, I mentioned that in my view, they're the acme, the ultimate in getting outside influence inside us as growth leaders. There's nothing beats sitting down with other people who are doing it, not just who have done it, but who are doing it; people who are vulnerable, transparent, open, willing to share, prepared to, be generous with what they've learned.
There are a couple of other layers of input that I want to talk about real quick.
First of all, I want to talk about passive input, and I mean by that essentially books, audio books, articles, podcasts - the type of input where you consume. It's not really a dialogue.
There's a limited extent to which you know, a good podcast or good book may be a little bit like a dialogue. You think, they talk, you think, they talk - but by and large, it's passive input.
And the point I want to make about passive input is (by the way, I'm all for it. I'm a huge reader. I've usually got three, four, five books on the go at any one time) but it very easily becomes an echo chamber. T,hink about the last time you recommended a book or someone recommended a book to you. We very rarely hand somebody someone something and say, Hey, or I think you should read this. I think it'll challenge the fundamentals of everything you believe. Essentially we recommend books and podcasts to people that we believe will really like them because they will underline what they already think. I read this book, and I thought of you.
And it's easy therefore for the stuff we listen to to become basically an echo chamber of what we already know and believe, and we don't get challenged to the extent that we might have.
I want to suggest two tools for doing that (escaping the echo chamber).
One is to proactively ask people who you respect to tell you not what they would recommend you read or listen to, but simply what was the last thing they read or listened to or consumed that really, really impacted them in any way - motivated them; inspired them; informed them.
But just to tell you what the last one was, without a filter as to whether or not it would be meaningful to you. Chances are if they got something out of it, you're going to to as well. That's it's something that pushes you outside your own comfort zone, your own regular reading and consumption.
And my second point is something that I do regularly to help make that happen, which is really to encourage serendipity. So, for example, I listen a lot to BBC Radio Four. (I'm originally from the United Kingdom, so the BBC is part of my upbringing, and even though I'm now U S citizen and got my us passport, I still have a Radio Four BBC radio channel going pretty much all the time as I'm working.)
And I'll zone in and out of course. But one of the reasons that I have it on, is they have programs on the most serendipitous topics that I would never consider listening to or reading about. And yet I always learn something - about the art of decision making, or about prioritization, or about how to deal with ambiguity.
And I try to do that in my reading as well. I read way more biographies and historical nonfiction than I do business books. And I'm not actually looking for topics. I'm not so much interested as to whether this biography is about, you know, Churchill, Caesar, Elon Musk or whoever it might be. I'm more interested in really great authors, authors who can pull wonderful lessons from either historical events or current events, or pull either historical or current good examples (of leadership principles).
For example, Walter Isaacson - almost anything he's written about a wide range of individuals I will consume.
And so I want to encourage you to mix it up in your passive input, your books and podcasts, using those tips that I just talked about.
And the second strata of input that I want to talk about are conferences. Many of us attend many of them. I run one of my own - ScaleCon, every June here in Washington DC. And conferences are great if you choose them well. They can be a real snooze fast if you don't, but assuming you choose them well, I want to suggest you bring those principles that I've just talked about to them as well.
And there are two ways to do that:
One is that conferences are sort of like a hybrid between passive input and the sort of dialogue, deep rich dialogue that you can get in a mastermind group.
You have the scheduled sessions with the schedule speakers, right? And that's pretty much passive input. No matter how you to dress it up, we go there and we listen. We might get a chance for some Q and A, but it's essentially a version of passive input.
Now go to one conference, not every year, probably every second year, and it's one of those mega conferences where there are literally hundreds of sessions on all sorts of topics and they give you a book this thick whenever you arrive with the details of all of the sessions.
I never open the book. I never crack the app open to see what's on, because I know my eye will be drawn to topics and to speakers that will echo to me based on what I already know.
I just waken up in the morning, go downstairs, have my coffee, walk down the corridor, turn left into the first session room and sit down.
And if after 10 minutes, there's just nothing here for me, depending on what the topic is, I'll leave. But nine times out of 10, I'll stay - and I have learned things about NASA, about moonshots. I've learned things about scientific principles. I've learned stuff about chemistry and historical events and topics I would never go to - not that the learning of the facts about those topics is the issue, it's that what I've learned is stuff that's useful to me as a leader:
How do people work through complicated issues like dealing with a pandemic. How do people deal with and manage something as horrendously complicated as putting a man on the moon -hose sorts of discussions. Even though the speaker didn't think they were there to talk about that, that's what I got out of it.
So I wanna encourage you to do that.
And the second thing is (and ScaleCon is a great example of where a bunch of rich stuff is waiting to be harvested using this tool) is to use the time between sessions in a very considered manner.
I'm guilty of going to conferences and then when the breaks come, either just bailing because I just want to go and get some time on my own and have a cup of coffee and stare into space, or you know, 'networking' - going to the exhibition hall, or walking around seeing how many cards I can exchange with people.
And I've never found that either of those yield anything really of value. Of course, if I really do need a break, I'll go take a break. But I much prefer to try to construct a type of - a version of - our rich interaction in those breaks.
And the simplest way I find to do it is right at the end of the session that I'm at, you know, the moderator's saying, okay, we're going to take a break, and they're doing the 'yada yada', instead of getting up and leaving, and going to the coffee table or the exhibition room, I'll turn to my neighbor, whoever it is, whether I know them or don't know them (especially if I don't know them), and I'll just introduce myself and ask, 'What did you get out of that session? Did you get anything of interest?'
And assuming they don't have, you know, something already planned, I'll just invite them to walk with me towards the pastries and scones and we'll have a rich discussion. I'll share what I do, listen to what they're doing. I'll maybe come away with one or two things.
And last year at ScaleCon that was one of the most privileged things for me to watch, where people from all backgrounds, all growth leaders, every one of them committed to growing their organization, but from for-profits, not from profits, manufacturing companies, faith based organizations, charities, NGOs - all sharing principles they'd learned, tools they'd recently picked up, tips that they were giving to each other.
The depth of conversation was wonderful, and in fact it was from ScaleCon that we had one or two I think of our current Predictable Success Mastermind Group eventually come join us.
So on your passive input, mix it up a little. If you're going to come to any conference this year (I'm a little biased, but if you're a growth leader, come to ScaleCon) - but whichever conferences you're going to use, that passive income (hah! 'passive income', there's a Freudian slip if ever there was one 🙂 use that passive input 'mix it up' technique with the sessions. Don't just go to the ones that you feel would underline what you already know or you immediately think would be of interest to you.
And use the time between the sessions to really build those little mini-mastermind interactions. I guarantee you'll come away thinking 'I got value for money with that conference'.
Thanks very much. I look forward to talking with you again soon. In the meantime, leave your comments down below. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what your most valued input is as a growth leader.