Disclosure: Dell is a client of the author.

One of the things that makes Dell Technologies World, which took place this weerk, unlike other vendor events is the amount of non-vendor content. One year, the company had former President Bill Clinton talk about what was going on in the world; another time, a big topic was about how the next big thing in tech would be robotics; this year there was a Q&A with Bill Nye answering science questions for kids, and an interesting discussion on how life on Earth may have come from Mars.

But the session that caught my attention was moderated by Jenn Saavedra, Dell’s head of HR, with Adam Grant, a psychologist and the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School, as the main speaker.  Grant is an expert on motivation and meaning, and since I did much of my undergraduate and graduate work in Manpower Management, a related topic, I found his presentation fascinating. 

Here are some of the highlights, with lessons for those in the business world.

The manager’s Kryptonite

Grant opened with a problem I’ve seen kill some big companies: an unwillingness by companies to challenge their assumptions. Back in the early 1990s, I was working at ROLM Systems after Siemens bought ROLM from IBM. Every quarter Siemens would bring a product to us for review, and we’d reject it.  It would send out an engineer who almost always believed he was more intelligent than we were. We’d present our facts; the engineer would grudgingly agree, and fly back to Siemens. He’d be reassigned; a new engineer would fly out and repeat the process; and the outcome would be the same. This happened three times before  Siemens disbanded our group, brought out the product we rejected, and crashed the company. 

In his presentation, Grant talked about the need to challenge assumptions. He referred to managers like those at Siemens as “mental fossils” — once they took a position; it was set in stone. That rarely turns out well, because none of us ever has all the information we need up front; things can change dramatically (as in the past pandemic year) and fast

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Previous post SBI Life Insurance share jumps 7{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} after Carlyle offloads stake via block deal
Next post Mexico’s America Movil says loses tribunal ruling against Colombia