By Somali K Chakrabarti
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. ~ George Bernard Shaw
Doesn’t it sound like an oxymoron in a world where being reasonable is highly overrated.
In all social and professional setups we are always expected to be reasonable and we teach our children to be the same.
Then what exactly does being unreasonable amount to? Does it mean throwing your weight around, picking up unnecessary tantrums or arguments? Hardly so, as impulsive actions without any a solid objective does not get you anywhere.
Let’s see what the interpretation of Unreasonableness might be and how to be productively unreasonable.
If we go by pure logic, it would be unreasonable for anybody to take chances and try out something that one hasn’t done before.
As much as I believe in the importance of analytical and logical thinking, yet somewhere I also believe that only an unreasonable conviction about an idea can motivate you to channelize your efforts into a new direction.
So how do we become unreasonable and learn to knock down the challenges we face?
In his book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell points out that David succeeded in toppling the giant by being innovative and disregarding the rules of single combat.
To win against a giant, you have to change the rules. You have to devise your own strategy and rules. You have to innovate, whether with the use of technology, or by forming communities, ‘discovering ‘blue oceans’ or by disruption.
If you read the Story of Amul movement, you would see how farmers at Anand united against the existing powerful diaries to form their own cooperative.
To change a situation, it is essential to question and break the status quo and one needs to be unreasonable for that.
What we sometimes view as an advantage or a disadvantage may not always be so.
‘The powerful are not as powerful as they seem, nor the weak as weak’. ~ Malcolm Gladwell
Learning to harness our disadvantages can strengthen us and they may even turn out to be into advantages in the long run.
We sometimes tend to underestimate the extent to which effort, motivation and focus can affect an outcome.
At times, when you know how good you are, your self-belief can lead to over confidence resulting in complacency. This can be delusional when you are proven wrong, It is absolutely essential to avoid complacency.
In his book Outliers, Gladwell has provided number of examples that show that 10,000 hours of work and fine tuning, are needed to attain expertise in any field – from business to sports.
Though it may sound like a cliché, but yet it is worth mentioning here that you need to think beyond what is normal or what the prevalent way of doing things is.
Obviously things are done in a particular way for some good reasons, but asking good questions can help you to explore different ways of doing things.
Say if you ask ‘What if we did this? ‘, ‘Would this be a good idea’, you may stumble across a new reason to do something differently in a better manner.
Trying to look at a problem in a different light prepares you for choosing or building alternatives.
Our guiding framework on upside and downside makes us cautious, but also prevents us from considering extreme situations.
Unreasonable expectations can accelerate productivity and efficiency. So set high expectations of yourself and plan and work diligently on turning your bold goals into reality.
So now you know that unreasonable thinking is not about ignoring all your accumulated wisdom, it is about harnessing it to produce a shift in thinking so that you can challenge your own assumptions, verify what you believe is correct, minimize biases, and tap your potential.
The fear of unknown or the fear of failure always holds us back from realizing our true potential. Yet, the only way to create breakthroughs is by taking the road less travelled, by being unreasonable and creating ideas that shift the paradigm.
As Gladwell puts it:
Unexpected freedom comes from having nothing to lose.
What do you think about being productively unreasonable?
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Unreasonableness. Underdogs & unexpectedness. – Adam Nathu, London Business School Review