Project Management Central

Please login or join to subscribe to this thread

Topics: Career Development, Leadership
The ideas that bring the biggest breakthroughs, according to Neil Strauss

In an article about our inclination to self-sabotage by not taking advice, Neil Strauss says, "It is the ideas that don’t make sense, the ideas that you resist, the ideas that seem stupid, the ideas that you mentally write-off, and especially the ideas that you form logical arguments against that will lead to your biggest breakthroughs."

Whether from your own career or someone you've observed, can you think of any examples of how Strauss' statement has applied to those of us who lead teams and deliver projects?
Sort By:

Great topic, Andy! I can't think of a case where I've encountered this but I'm sure it's happened to me - the human mind is great at blocking out cases of us shooting ourselves in the foot by not having listened to a radical but ultimately correct idea!

Having a trusted advisor who can tell you when you've got blinders on or are not being sufficiently open to a radical option can help. Of course, we have to be willing to admit to ourselves that we are in the discomfort zone to carry through with this.


While it is a nice thought, it must be said that this concept falls prey to the survivorship bias. Not all such ideas lead to the biggest breakthroughs. Some can, but most will be what they appear to be. We should be careful not to focus only on the few such successes and not to ignore the majority of such failures.

A savant will be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, but for most of us mere mortals this is the reason why ideas are weighed against objectives and rejected if alignment is not found.

All ideas should be recorded, yes. They should undergo various levels of screening (from a quick-and-dirty level 1 through to in-depth analysis level n by all stakeholders), but if they detract too much from project objectives - or if they hurt the project metrics substantially, there should be no reluctance to give the idea up.

Great points, @Karan! Thank you for sharing that.

There are countless examples of where Strauss' quote is just flat out wrong and maybe even dangerous. But the part I'm holding onto is where my initial reaction to something new is, at times, heavily biased against it. I'm too apt to jump to conclusions and not stay open-minded to the fact there may be something to an idea I might otherwise write-off.

There was a day when I would have told you that relationship-building was way overrated. Or that results should stand on their own. Or that getting certifications was a waste of time. Or that I don't have time to read. And I could go on..... I mentally wrote-off advice about these things from mentors, at least at first.

@Kiron's tie to blindspots is along the lines of where I'm trying to apply the quote. But I agree with you that Strauss' point is not a call to avoiding rigor. Thanks for sharing your insights!

Please login or join to reply

Content ID:

Half this game is ninety percent mental.

- Yogi Berra