Feeling good about some recent successes?
If so, this might be a good time to pay heed to Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher who lived around 500 BC. Today's Heraclitus insight (from the Innovative Whack Pack) is: "There is a greater need to extinguish arrogance than a blazing fire."
There's a creativity strategy in this epigram, and I believe it is: "You are not God."
The ancient Greek word for arrogance is hubris, and it was seen as a precursor to one's downfall. Anyone proud enough to challenge the gods would be burned by the gods.
If you're repeatedly successful, there's a tendency to believe that you have found the formula for success and are no longer subject to human fallibility. This is devastating to the creative process. In a world that is continually changing, every right idea or strategy eventually becomes the wrong one.
With an arrogant attitude, you cease paying attention to differing viewpoints. You screen out the "boos" and amplify the "hurrahs." You believe that you aren't subject to the same constraints as others.
For example, shortly before the Chernobyl nuclear reactor melted down and exploded, its engineering team (comprised of respected experts) won a distinguished award for operations productivity. The team felt that the safety rules they were asked to follow were designed much too narrowly for such an experienced group, and so they disregarded them during their reactor experiments. The result was a great catastrophe, with considerable loss of human life and potential genetic damage to future generations.
Think of all the businesses that were so sure of their products and methods that they stopped listening to their customers, and soon found themselves without any.
Similarly, the history of warfare is filled with military leaders who became intoxicated with their successes and then over-reached in subsequent campaigns:
- Napoleon in Russia;
- Hitler in Russia;
- The French in Indochina;
- The Americans in Vietnam; and,
- The Soviets in Afghanistan.
Indeed, arrogance can infect entire cultures. The Chinese were extremely confident of their ways shortly before they were conquered by the Mongols. The same could be said about the Aztecs and the Incas prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
Do you have a current problem or issue you're dealing with? Then ask yourself these three questions: "How is ego adversely affecting my judgment? Where have I been successful in the past when dealing with a similar issue? Has this success made me less receptive to alternative approaches?