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.
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?