Some things never change

If you’re the type of person that’s averse to risk, then perhaps being in business is not for you but you shouldn’t worry as you’re not alone; according to Alistair Dryburgh, author of Everything you know about  business is wrong  there’s a very good reason why everyone is not suited to the trials and tribulations of going alone and it stems way back into our history.

In prehistoric times, whilst life was brutish and short, it was also relatively simple; it was easy to decide how to act upon the risks and opportunities  that occurred. Basically, man was governed by two fundamental principles:

1.  Familiarity is Security

Prehistoric man had no science to assist him to decide what food to eat, no books to enable him to learn from others’ experience and his ability to use logic was hampered by his lack of education. As a result, he rarely strayed from his ‘safe’ surroundings and stuck rigidly to what was familiar as a way to survive. If he’d experienced it before, and survived, he could survive it again;  if he hadn’t experienced it before then it was best avoided. New experiences simply weren’t worth the risk.

In an unsophisticated world, it’s not hard to understand why those that adopted this strategy lived longer, had more children and passed the knowledge down through generations.
Ironically, this attitude ‘safe = secure’ is still the mindset many of us choose to adapt but in today’s sophisticated  business world  this stifles innovation  and progress. In a competitive environment where everyone is doing the same, the man who takes a risk and does something different increases his chance of survival.

2.  Social Conformity

In   the  1950’s  at  Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania,  Professor Solomon  Asch conducted a study of spatial perception. He invited eight students into a room and put up a slide of the following diagram.


He then asks each student, one by one which of the lines on the right is the same length as the line on the left?

The first person answers C
The second person answers C The third person answers C The fourth person answers C The fifth person answers C
The sixth person answers C
The seventh person answers C

Even though the answer is clearly B, in 75% of cases, the eighth person (who was the only real  subject  of  the study, the rest were colleagues  of the professor) answered C proving that people can easily be manipulated by their peers.

In  a simple,  unchanging  environment like primitive earth, the group opinion was probably the right approach to take after all,
who had the time or the inclination to debate issues? But in a modern world where the lives and aspirations of people are rarely the same, going against the consensus of opinion can often be the route to success.

Everything you know about business is wrong is an excellent read and available from Amazon and most good bookshops and retails at £6.79.

Related articles