As a business community, we have learned a lot since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. If you had asked me my opinion on remote work a year ago, like many business leaders, I would have argued that as a business concept, it is a bad idea. I believed remote work would cause firms to be less productive, produce a lower quality of work product, and foster employee disengagement – all three negative consequences.
Fast forward a few months. After being forced into a remote work experience at my own company, I now realize my opinions were flawed. What our leadership has learned is that productivity has not suffered. Our work product is as excellent as ever. Yes, there have been challenges related to employee engagement, simply due to minimal social interaction. But we are offsetting the downside by purposefully communicating on a regular schedule, and by encouraging our folks to maintain a sense of team atmosphere through virtual collaboration meetings and calls. Certainly, it is not an ideal business environment; but remote work has not proven to be the disaster I imagined only a few months ago.
For me, a major realization has been that ideas, opinions, and mindsets that I held prior to 2020 were not necessarily accurate – and some were actually false. When I consider my previously held opinions about telecommuting, I must admit that I developed those opinions without any factual data. My mindset was based on intuition – simply a gut feeling; therefore, I was not inclined to consider alternative methods or ideas.
My point is not my discovery that remote work scenarios can work, but that we often resist change, discount ideas and shun alternatives for no other reason than our certainty of a long-held belief; a belief often based on little-to-no data, no truth and no validity. I’ve come to realize that we resist change and new ideas due to our own arrogance and ignorance.
Among the most frustrating activities in business, and personally, is negotiating with a person who refuses to budge – someone who will not give an inch, being so convinced that he or she is correct. Ultimately, we conclude that any type of negotiation with this person is a waste of time and energy. Yet many of us conduct similar internal discussions in our own minds every day. We tell ourselves how something will not work, that it’s a stupid idea, or that we must never compromise. Despite our lack of data in forming these opinions, we never challenge ourselves. In turn, we can become a victim of our own arrogance and ignorance.
The combination of arrogance and ignorance is one of the most potent poisons for any business and its leaders. Together, these attitudes cloud our judgments and make us prisoners to a defined pattern, an unmovable perspective, or a pre-determined mindset.
This is not to suggest that we accept every new whim or idea that floats into our work environment. Nor is it prudent to continually jump on the latest business innovation or technology bandwagon. It is to suggest, however, that if we are holding onto a belief, idea, or opinion that we have never challenged or validated, then we may be wrong. In fact, we may be missing an opportunity to grow our business, create other opportunities, or find new solutions to old problems.
What would happen if we looked at things through a different lens?
How much more powerful could each of us be if we were able to remove the barriers that our own arrogance and ignorance place upon us? How much more successful could we be if we were able to consider new ideas and alternatives on possible merits, and not nullify them with no reason other than we don’t “feel” they would work? What could our businesses become, what would our teams achieve, if the decisions of business leaders were influenced more by humility and knowledge?
I don’t know yet if remote work will become a long-term strategy for my company. That said, we will continue to evaluate its advantages and disadvantages before we determine how to incorporate it in our business going forward. Despite all the unknowns, one thing I do know is that we now have the information and knowledge to make a decision that will not be clouded by either arrogance or ignorance.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers, and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts, and via his blog.