How do CEOs learn from other CEOs

One of my teachers and my good friend loves to repeat one phrase: “Knowledge is sticky”. And I completely agree with him, because:

  1. Even though the profession of a teacher has existed for more than one millennium, it is very difficult to transfer knowledge to someone in full, since it’s too “sticky” to its owner.
  1. The desire to receive knowledge should be a hundredfold stronger in the student himself than in the teacher to transmit it. It does not matter how much its owner is worried about the transfer of knowledge if the recipient does not show the desire to receive information.

Recently, my team and I conducted a survey among CEOs of various Ukrainian and foreign companies to find out how, and for what reason managers receive knowledge during coronavirus quarantine. What was our perplexity when we found that more than 60% of respondents receive information (from lectures, seminars, training, conversations with colleagues and books) simply because “it’s interesting to listen/ watch/read”. Substantive knowledge that could be adopted and used for the benefit of the company finds practical interest in only 25% of CEOs surveyed.

On the one hand, the reaction of the CEO is understandable – what else can you teach us, we can teach whoever ourselves. On the other hand, forgive dear CEO, only people of ordinary mental abilities can speak like that because even Socrates deduced a simple truth, like the more you know, the more you understand that you know nothing.

In any case, it is difficult to argue that better awareness leads to better decisions, and better decisions lead to better results.

For those who agree with the above thesis and are used to continuous introspection and self-development, I suggest receiving one more piece of information to always be ready for any, even crisis scenario:

  1. Enter a community of like-minded people or create your own. The community should live by a single idea or desire to solve a specific problem, and not just gather and hold hands.
  1. Create a think tank of 5-6 equal people. Napoleon Hill first mentioned this practice in 1937, describing a group that included American corporate giants – Andrew Carnegie (US Steel and Carnegie-Mellon University), Henry Ford (Ford Motor), Thomas Edison (GE) and Harvey Firestone (Firestone Tire). It is in such a narrow circle of other CEOs that you can work out your professional issues more deeply and have the opportunity to find out what other members of the group know, see their perspectives through their eyes, feel their experience, join their resources, go beyond their own worldview and realize their plans and goals faster.
  1. Find yourself an external opponent – a listener – a sparring partner – an adviser. I’m not talking about the coach, but about someone whom you respect for professionalism and personal qualities, someone who is your authority. CEOs are often very lonely people. CEOs are often more intellectually developed and think outside the box, that’s why being surrounded by family and subordinates, they often feel black sheep and the need to communicate with an equal. I recall the phrase: “How nice to talk with a smart person (looking in the mirror).”

Finally, I would like to debunk one famous conviction that knowledge is power. As for me, the statement is not entirely correct, since knowledge is not just a force, but a potential force (just like with energy). Around us, there can be lots of smart people, to whom the statement can be attributed: “Why are you so poor if you are so smart?” The ability to use the knowledge and other people’s experience is a real strength. Do you agree?