Bob Seawright

This post was originally published at Medium.com. I didn’t like the structure there, so I’m reposting it here. Here are  3 Things I Learned from Bob Seawright.

Bob Seawright was on the Going Deep with Aaron Watson podcast and shared some nice nuggets. Aaron Watson’s 30 minute interviews a different — in a good way. Here’s what I learned from Seawright

1- Keep track of your decisions.

“In my current job I was called upon to give advice and opinions on best practices on a variety of topics all the time, but I realized that it was increasingly easy for me to go part of the way through an answer without really having to make a call.” “My memory was often inaccurate of what I had said.” “Being human, I remembered the good calls and didn’t remember the bad calls.”

Seawright saw his hindsight bias with 20/20 vision. This bias, to remember our wins, but not our losses may keep people on the golf course, but is terrible for the rest of life.

What I liked about Seawright’s response was that he talked about how he dealt with it, by writing. His blog — Above the Markets — is the result. Now he writes things down and can see why he thought something, and if he was right.

2- Have a devil’s advocate.

“Institutional red teams are not the same thing as real disagreement.” “You need people to become empowered if they are to become a red team.” “Make sure you have people in your life that are going to challenge your thinking.”

Seawright says he was once in a small group with Daniel Kahneman (how cool is that!) who said, “we all tend to live in bubbles of various kinds.” We need people who can pop our bubble.

Side Note: In my series on survivor bias in start-ups and consequent book, there were two ways bubbles could be popped; customers and advisors. Start-ups that failed always lived in their bubble.

Institutionally this hard, Seawright says, it’s easy to stagnate. We need critical outside voices.

In his book, Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg writes about a GE plant where efficiency and error rates had stagnated. They couldn’t effectively hire more people. More quality control staff brought diminishing returns.

What to do?

The solution for GE is the same one Seawright suggests — empowerment. Line workers were empowered and each became the quality control.

The Devil’s Advocate goes by many times; inside/outside view, contrarian opinion, constructive criticism, but it’s Gary Vaynerchuk who explained it in the color missing from ideas born in academics. He tells James Altucher this is what he would say to someone who wanted to change (27:00):

“Round up the 8 people closest to you…have a two hour conversation and the first hour and a half is completely predicated on Johnny Crest saying, “I need something from you, and it’s going to be very hard on you. I want you to tell me everything that you think I’m good at and what you think I’m bad at…so I’m giving you permission now to say things that you think may end our friendship or our relationship, because in this one moment, I’ll be okay with it, because I’m using this data to make my life happier.”

3- Is this why people hate Duke basketball?

“After any Duke, (North) Carolina game, the descriptions of the game would be widely different depending on which shade of blue you were wearing.”

One of the most famous social psychology papers is in the same arena (sports) but a different type (football). In They Saw the Same Game (1954), researchers found that students from Dartmouth and Princeton reported the same football game in very different terms.

It seems clear that the “game” actually was many different games and that each version of the events that transpired was just as “real” to a particular person as other versions were to other people.

Our position influences our point of view.

On a recent vacation to San Juan there was a homeless guy asking for food. I gave him my leftover fries, but the next person he asked gave nothing, commenting after he left that the guy was a bum.

Maybe. Maybe not. My guess is that this guy was mentally handicapped.

We both could be wrong of course (I often am), but we saw the same thing and had two different conclusions.

Thanks for reading, I’m @mikedariano on Twitter.

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