Thursday, May 27, 2010

19 Things I Believe (with help from Bob Sutton)

Google Reader (via Andrew Chen) percolated Bob Sutton's "17 Things I Believe" list for me yesterday. He recently updated the list (it use to be 12 items), but I hadn't seen it before.

A lot of the items on this list resonate with me. As I reflect back on organizations I've been a part of, and organizations I've been personally responsible for, many of the challenging moments can be bottled up into one of Bob's items. I found it remarkable how accurate the list was for me, but not all of them hold true, and there are others that I would add.

The result is the following hybrid list of the 19 things I believe. Bob's list has been shrunk down and are represented in the first twelve items of my list. The remaining items make up my additions.

What does your list look like?

1. Sometimes the best management is no management at all -- first do no harm!

2. Indifference is as important as passion.

3. In organizational life, you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others, but you can't have both at the same time.

4. Saying smart things and giving smart answers are important. Learning to listen to others and to ask smart questions is more important.

5. You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior; unvarnished self-interest is a learned social norm, not an unwavering feature of human behavior.

6. Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them.

7. The best test of a person's character is how he or she treats those with less power.

8. Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.

9. If you are an expert, seek-out novices or experts in other fields. If you are a novice, seek out experts.

10. Sutton's Law: “If you think that you have a new idea, you are wrong. Someone else probably already had it. This idea isn’t original either; I stole it from someone else”

11. "Am I a success or a failure?" is not a very useful question

12. Strive for simplicity and competence, but embrace the confusion and messiness along the way.

13. Making assumptions about someone else's intent follows the 80/20 rule. 80% of time you're wrong. And the other 20% of the time you'll have actually made the situation worse with your assumptions.

14. Surround yourself with people that fix problems rather than fixing blame.

15. Surround yourself with people that make conversation. Walk away from people that question every word that comes out of your mouth. Being challenged is a good thing, but being badgered is a waste of your time.

16. The ability to defer judgement is the single biggest asset for groups trying to brainstorm.

17. Don't treat every conversation like it's a negotiation. You may win something in the short-term, but the long-term damage is unavoidable.

18. When you reward people, they reward you.

19. Don't ever underestimate the power of a thank-you note or these three words... "I was wrong."

You can find Bob's original list here:


  1. Excellent stuff.

  2. This is a great list. Can I ask-where did you find #13-the one about assumptions? I read this on your list and have been coming back to it over and over again in the last few weeks. Thanks for sharing!

  3. hey, shayla! that's just based on personal experience. and i've seen it happen both in personal interactions as well as decisions being made in my professional career (ie what strategy to follow or how to design new products/features).it's interesting that you've highlighted that one because if i were to rank them, that might be at the top for me. it's the seed pod - a corrosive one - for being judgmental.