In the book we are told the story of the rise and fall of the Polaroid company. Edwin Land developed the instant camera in 1948. Between then and 1976, sales climbed up to $950 Million per year. Then in 1980 Sony founder, Akio Morita approached Land and mentioned that chemical processing of images was going to change in favor of electronic cameras. Land missed the opportunity to move with the times. In addition to mission the boat, as he was approached by others with new ideas he held to his beliefs. Those who thought differently were marginalized. He surrounded himself with people who believed as he did. This Groupthink ultimately sealed the fate of Polaroid.
“Polaroid doesn’t sell what it didn’t invent,” Mac Booth CEO of Poloroid.
Disagreements are Healthy for the Group
In contrast Bridgewater Associates headquartered in Connecticut has a completely different culture. They manage over $150 Billion in investments for governments, pension funds, universities and charities. “Bridgewater’s secret is promoting the expression of original ideas,” Adam Grant.
Similarly, Google makes use of ideas that challenge the accepted norms. Loszlo Bock, head of peoples operation at Google, created the ‘Canaries,” a group of trusted engineers across the company who have diverse viewpoints and a reputation for speaking their minds. Major changes in policy are shared with this group to solicit critical feedback. Adam Grant calls out that Polaroid never made use of a similar group to put their ideas to the test. One can only speculate that if they had, perhaps Polaroid would still be a powerhouse today.
Good take away from this section of the book? Be open to soliciting open feedback from trusted sources especially for major ideas. They just might be saving you from a total disaster that might not be in your field of view. There is power in diversity of thought.