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Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes by Tim Sanders, G. Shawn Hunter

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Chapter 6

Edge: Embrace New Kinds of Risk

Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.

—Thor Heyerdahl, innovator, adventurer, and border-smasher

I have a friend who installed the same invisible dog fence I did, but he admitted he didn't bother training his dog. He simply installed the underground wire and shackled his dog with the collar that would shock the dog whenever he got near the line. My friend thought that the dog would just learn the boundaries himself and voilà—a dog self-trained to stay in the yard.

When I asked him how that worked out, he said that, as his young, boisterous dog started to run and play as usual, he would get shocked. However, since the dog didn't associate the pain with any clear boundary, he eventually sat in the middle of the yard shaking in fear, too paralyzed to move. From that point on, all the dog wanted to do was stay in the house.

There are many dimensions to this story—not least the owner's behavior—but what I want to address is the dog's perspective. The dog, not understanding why he was getting shocked, arrived at a state that psychologists call “learned helplessness.” It's the point at which we are capable of believing that nothing we do matters and, regardless of our action, the outcome will be bad for us.

Having a sense of control, that our behavior matters, is one of the most important predictors of happiness, and, in turn, of workplace productivity, collaboration, and innovation. When we ...

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