Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Egonomics - david marcum & steven smith

 The authors kept their ego down and did not capitalise their names so I decided to honor them. The idea of the book is that ego is not really a bad thing as it is made out to be - it could be our greatest asset or most expensive liability. Ego sparks drive and intent to achieve and a lack of ego can led to apathy and insecurity. The authors tell us what makes it a liability and how to make it an asset.

Why egonomics - because ego costs us money big time. Its considered that ego costs 6-15% of total revenue in business (for a Fortune 500 company that would be 1.1. billion USD). Other costs show up like - over a third of failed businesses are due to ego issues, two thirds of executives don't explore better alternatives while making decisions because of ego, and 81% managers push their decisions by persuasion and not by quality of idea. The authors also explore Jim Collins book 'Good to Great' which describe great leaders of business as those who had the qualities of fierce commitment to make their company great and a great degree of humility. The hardest side to master in any enterprise is the human side and this human side is what affects the business side - through ego. So it makes sense to understand it. 

The one insight - one which I relied applies to everything in life is this - ego also works in a continuum. There is no good and bad - there are degrees and we move within that. The other insight is that the cost or impact of ego comes out in moments - by being a particular 'ego' energy we can handle these big moments that can make or break things and reduce costs.

The downside of ego showing its ugly side come sup in the following four ways 1) being comparative 2) being defensive 3) showcasing brilliance and seeking acceptance. On the other hand, if we need our ego to work, we need to shift our energy to these three aspects 1) humility 2) curiosity and 3) veracity.  

The authors say that within five minutes of a meeting we know what it is going to be like - being comparative, defensive, showcasing brilliance or seeking acceptance. By being comparative we lose the competitive edge (ironically), show that we are uncertain about who we are and we get sidetracked from our work. By being defensive we let the best ideas miss us, resent feedback and defend a single position. We must understand the difference between defending our stance and being defensive - one is open to progress and the other is closed. The authors give us a wheel of defensive spin - exaggerate, understate, manipulate and fabricate. When we showcase brilliance we make the mistake of making people wary and less open to our ideas (even if we have better ideas), we don't see it but all else can, we move away from sharing and focus on showcasing. If we share we can go the route of discovery-driven process and get in a variety of perspectives (increasing the chances of bringing in 50% better ideas). Seeking acceptance is a sign of too little ego, there is insincerity and thanks to the need for acceptance, we let a lot of bad ideas go through. It's a bit like life in junior high school - we all play out like 13 or 14 year olds.

On the other side, we can work our ego to our advantage by cultivating the following qualities. By humility we do not mean 'too little ego' but actually say that humility is the perfect balance between too much ego and too little ego. It is defined as 'and intelligent self-respect that keeps us form thinking too much or too little of ourselves.' The three ways to keep humility working for us are 1) we, them (devotion to progress) 2) I'm brilliant, I'm not (duality) and 3) one more thing (constructive discontent. By being committed to progress we don't have time for ego as it guides us like a pole star, our duality in accepting our uniqueness and nothingness keeps us balanced between over and under confidence and our constructive discontent keeps us hungry and never satisfied and always grounded.

The authors spend some time on the importance of intensity and intent in humility. They say that our negative ego rises up and shows signs through escalation in emotion physiologically called Diffuse Physiological Arousal (which is not good) and instead gun for the optimal level of arousal called 'Elevated Physiological Arousal (EPA). In DPA we are angry, irritated, emotional etc whereas in EPA we are engaged, enthusiastic, energetic, effective, excited and encouraged. Humility is not about perpetual harmony but about intensity as in EPA. One reason we get aroused is because we feel attacked on our ideas (execution, strategies, viewpoints) or our identity (values, character). Two ways to imporve communication is by maintaining Unconditional Personal Regard (UPR) -always holding the person in respect as opposed to their ideas and to channel intensity from identity to ideas. Basically, don't take it personally!

The second aspect is Curiosity which is either State curiosity or Trait Curiosity - State curiosity is when we need external sparks to be curious which is a temporary phenomenon and Trait Curiosity is when we ignite the curios spark by ourselves. Trait curiosity is a rare blend of order and openness to new. The reason why ideas don't take off is that people have imagination, ideas but lack the pre build, pre launch, pre execution curiosity. Here the authors recommend taking time before running off with an idea - be curious.

The value of a process depends upon the quality of information one gathers from conversations - on your level of curiosity. To raise the level of curiosity in daily conversations ask yourself the following questions - what do we mean? what are we seeking? what are we assessing? what does that lead to?

The third aspect is Veracity - which is the habitual pursuit and adherence to truth. The pursuit of reality - not what we think but what is actually happening. People do not voice opinions because we lack hearing down (where we see dissent as disloyalty) and speaking up capability (where we must take responsibility of communicating to the listener in a manner they get it). To speak up effectively - establish permission, make your intention clear and be candid. 

Two lines I liked - "There's a difference between the power of knowing and the discipline of becoming' and 'Speak in a way that doesn't provoke others to be defensive.'   

Nice. Thanks Sridhar for the recommendation. We could all reduce the cost to us thanks to improper use of our ego. Good perspectives - else ego was condemned to the doghouse. 



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