Warning, Conventional Wisdom Ahead

I overheard a conversation at lunch today between two business folks. Now I don’t know whether they were boss/employee or just colleagues, but the older one uttered a phrase that all but stopped the discussion – “Well, conventional wisdom says…”

There are many phrases that masquerade as positive feedback or analysis but are truly meant to stop whatever ideation or innovation is occurring. “Conventional Wisdom” is one of the worst offenders.

Used by an authority figure (Manager, CEO, Industry Analyst, Consultant, Mentor, etc.,) its hidden meaning screams “No that isn’t how we are going to do it.” It could also mean, “you don’t know about which (or to whom) you are talking.” Either way, this is an ideation and innovation stopper.

“Conventional Wisdom” should not be a static thought, but one that is challenged over time and experience. Businesses change, customers change, investors change – so yesterday’s conventional wisdom could be the very reason a great company falls into old and sloppy habits.

So the next time someone says, “Well, conventional wisdom…” be reminded of what Gandhi said –

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”

Mahatma Gandhi
Indian ascetic & nationalist leader (1869 – 1948)

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