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Author's profile photo Jonathan Becher

The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done

JB cognitive disorders 4.14.14.jpgEver notice that some people get more things done than others?

For years, the most popular explanation came from Steve Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey argued that personal character, purpose and self-discipline were the primary characteristics of successful people. The book has been wildly successful, selling more than 20M copies. My only criticism is that Covey believed that combining lots of highly effective people would result in a highly effective business. I think team effectiveness relies more on the mix of talent and styles, than on individual mindsets.

While he doesn’t say it explicitly, I don’t think Michael Dearing is a Covey supporter. Dearing, a Stanford professor who All Things Digital describes as the Hottest Angel Investor You’ve Never Heard Of, believes that successful people distort their own reality. In a presentation called The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done, Dearing claims successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have the following traits:

  • Personal Exceptionalism
    They believe they are special and at the top of their peer group.  Their work is snowflake-special. Their experiences are well outside the bounds of normal.
  • Dichotomous Thinking
    They see the world populated by black and white extremes, with very few grey nuances in the middle.
  • Correct Overgeneralization
    They make universal judgments from limited observations and yet are correct a disproportionate amount of the time.
  • Blank-Canvas Thinking
    They have a strong desire to invent new rules, especially when the existing ones are generally accepted. They do not paint-by-numbers.
  • Schumpeterianism
    They believe that disruptive innovation is natural and necessary. They assume creative destruction is their reason for being.

Dearing’s traits encourage perfectionism, indifference to facts, and mindless ambition. Having lived in Silicon Valley for 20 years, I see countless entrepreneurs who exhibit these traits. In addition, many of the successful tycoons who rule the Valley follow this thinking. Some believe you need a reality distortion field to get ahead.

Which school of thought do you subscribe to: Covey or Dearing?

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This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around on April 14, 2014.

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      Author's profile photo Andy Silvey
      Andy Silvey

      Hi Jonathan,

      as usual thank you for an excellent article, which has opened my world to Dearing

      whom I'd never heard of before this blog, and his philosophy.

      To your question,

          Which school of thought do you subscribe to: Covey or Dearing?

      You've described that:

      a) Covey's School of Thought

               personal character

               purpose

               self-discipline

         

          were the primary characteristics of successful people

      b) Dearing's School of Thought

        

              Personal Exceptionalism

        

              Dichotomous Thinking

        

             Correct Overgeneralization

        

              Blank-Canvas Thinking

        

              Schumpeterianism

      I would observe that actually the two are not so far away, because,

      i) doesn't Dearing's

               Personal Exceptionalism

      fall into Covey's

               purpose

      ii) doesn't Dearing's

               Dichotomous Thinking

        

             Correct Overgeneralization

        

              Blank-Canvas Thinking

        

              Schumpeterianism

      fall into Covey's

          personal character

      iii) Covey's self-discipline, well this trait goes without saying under either

      school of thought Covey or Dearing.

      To conclude, I think both schools of thought are actually not so far apart

      and would subscribe to both of them.

      Best regards,

      Andy.