These thoughts were inspired by listening to the technologist, former CTO at Microsoft, Climate Change leader, and investor, Nathan Myhrvold on The Knowledge Project Podcast #162
On the podcast, Nathan was asked the question we’re all dying to know of accomplished people: what’s the secret to your success? More specifically, how was he able to get so much done at Microsoft, and so many patents filed? (His current investment company, Intellectual Ventures, owned 30,000 patents at its height).
His answer was surprisingly simple: begin by being very grounded and analytical in what you’re starting, keep a sharp eye on how things are developing, and then be ready to adapt your thinking quickly when and if the facts change.
As John Maynard Keyes is attributed to saying, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?”
As simple as it sounds, it’s surprisingly hard to do, especially if the original idea came with a lot of social status. It’s easy to get overly attached to our plaudits, particularly the early ones.
There’s also the “Sunk Cost Fallacy” at play. It’s hard to pivot over to a Product-B business model, even if it appears the world is heading in that direction, when you’ve just spent a zillion dollars building a Product-A factory.
That’s why some people posit that bosses wanted their employees to return to the office after COVID. Not because they were less productive working from home, but because they had spent a lot of money on office leases and didn’t want to see their investment go to waste.
To be a truly great leader requires you to be simultaneously firm in your thinking, while also staying equally flexible. Diligent in monitoring the situation yet ready to change on a dime when necessary. Not an easy combo.