Sometimes you have to read a book for just one insight.
The critics might be divided on whether it is a good book, but that one insight makes it gold in your eyes. I wouldn’t have read ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, but for a good friend who recommended it. Then a few weeks later my brother gave me his copy and so I read it.
This was the insight.
Harari says that Homo Sapiens lived for many millennia alongside Neanderthals without immediately dominating them. So why did Sapiens become dominant? There seemed to be a number of environmental reasons. But what finally did it, he says, was Sapiens’ ability to co-operate with groups of people they did not know personally. If your influence is only with those you know, you are limited to about 150 people. When you co-operate with more, then your influence is far greater and your impact is far greater.
Sapiens succeeded over the Neanderthals because of their ability to spread common thinking beyond the immediate group. When you think the same, you act the same and so behave as a much larger cohesive and more powerful force. Who is more likely to prevail: 10 groups of 150 people who look superior but don’t have much in common with each other, or…1500 people who look inferior but think, talk and act in unison? We all know that power.
So how is this relevant to corporate life?
Well, how about ‘Standards’? There are formal ones, like ISO 9001. Or unspoken conventions, like cars having a steering wheel, the right hand pedal being for the fuel, the left hand pedal being for the brake. Imagine a world, where Fords had tiller steering, GM had a side joystick and the accelerator was on the dashboard? There is no question that the market in cars would not be as healthy as it is. Transport those standards to other countries, then you can sell your cars there. Plus you can find suppliers who can make components that will work for you better and cheaper. Everyone involved wins.
Co-operation with people you don’t know makes everyone’s life better. The impact of your ideas is far greater. In the case of Home Sapiens, it has led to dominance over the World.
Falcon 9 leaves Cape Canaveral on Oct 11, 2017
I’m a great fan of Elon Musk. His #10 rule for success is “Work super hard”. And he’s not the only one who says this. Many people say this.
And yet there are many of you who “work hard” but don’t feel that it is bringing success. So what’s the problem? How does hard work become success for Elon Musk but not for you?
Here’s a thought.
When you say ‘work hard’ don’t you really mean ‘work a lot’? Maybe we need to redefine what ‘hard’ means. When you work a lot, it’s hard because you get tired, you have to concentrate for longer, you don’t see how life is going to get easier, you don’t have a rosy view of the future. You are urged to keep slogging up that mountain. And then what? Then you die. When you are faced with this view, it is no wonder that retirement looks like a great opportunity!
It’s not so much ‘hard’ as ‘lacking purpose’.
To get out of this way of thinking requires…thinking!
Thinking is what Elon Musk does to come up with his impressive goals. He said to himself that one day life on Earth will be obliterated by some catastrophe, so we should get on with living somewhere else (Mars). He said to himself that almost all energy on Earth comes from the Sun, so cut out the middle man (fossil fuels) and harvest it directly. Simple bits of logic that lead to a dramatically different view of what to do in life and provide purpose for everybody that works with him.
He is a natural for this. Most of us aren’t, and that is why I say it is ‘hard’. But it is what we must do first to get the sense of purpose that will take the ‘hard’ out of the work we do to make it happen.