I'm reading Matt Miller's The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity. Some may argue with both the ideas that Miller identifies, as well as their implications. However I think that few would challenge his premise that "in every era, people grow comfortable with settled ideas about the way the world works" and that it is this "intellectual intertia" that causes us problems, both individually as well as in the various relationships in which we find ourselves--in the partnerships, organizations, companies, institutions, etc. to which we belong.
Miller has a 3-step process for dealing with dead ideas that I think has applicability in many arenas:
1. Identify the Dead Ideas that Matter
Whether you are thinking about your personal or professional life, of how your team is operating or of what's happening in your organization, at any given time there are dozens--perhaps hundreds--of dead ideas circulating. Some are relatively harmless, but others are toxic, with far-reaching and dangerous implications. The first step in dealing with the tyranny of dead ideas is to identify those that are most important to the issues at hand. As Miller indicates:
2. Understand the Dead Idea's "Story"
To move past a dead idea, you must first understand the source of its power:
- Where did it come from?
- Why did it once make sense?
- What has changed now that makes it useless or wrong or harmful?
3. Reach for New (and Paradoxical) Ways of Thinking
The final step in the process is to identify new ways of thinking that both make more sense in light of existing realities and that put us in a better place to thrive based on these new realities. Often these changed belief systems seem paradoxical or counterintuitive, or even so crazy as to be off-limits. But just as often, this suggests that these are ideas worth exploring as they are key to any intellectual breakthroughs necessary to moving us beyond the strait jacket created by our current ways of thinking.
So what dead ideas need exploring in our personal lives? In our organizations? Which are the most "strategic?" What are the stories behind those beliefs? How did they gain their power? What new ways of thinking do we need to embrace? How do we live with the paradoxes of those ideas?
I'd love to hear your thoughts, particularly on "dead ideas" that impact learning, both individually and organizationally.