Why we should spend less time with people like us
It’s often said that we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. In our globally connected world, there is almost endless scope for choosing whom we want to shape our worldview.
Who is shaping yours?
I’ve found that since the pandemic, the circle of people that I spend time with has shrunk. I expect this may be true for you too. Despite the globalisation of work and the benefits of technology, our bubbles have actually become smaller.
In fact, the five people we spend our time with might be more homogenous than ever! This has consequences because diverse thinking is vital to working through the global challenges that CEOs are facing. By limiting perspectives to those very like our own, I believe that we lose out on some of the most special and unique parts of being human. Conversely, by expanding our worldview, we can become more rounded and more successful in all that we do.
The magic of Questing
What if you could expand your worldview in a safe space with time and guidance to make the most of it? If you could be immersed with a diverse group of people, what unexpected perspectives this might bring to your business and your own leadership?
Imagine spending time in an incredible place with fellow CEOs, plus artists, activists, indigenous people, policy makers, environmentalists, refugees, ex-offenders, and community leaders. This is the magic of a Quest (my colleague, Kim Coupounas, shares additional insights on what Quests can achieve).
What is a Quest?
When I joined Leaders’ Quest 15 years ago, I had little awareness of what Quests could achieve. I knew that Leaders’ Quest ran what sounded like leadership development events, some of them taking place in emerging markets. That sounded pretty interesting to me and so I took up the role without many expectations. It was only after I became immersed in the LQ approach that I witnessed the fundamental ‘rewiring’ that participants experience when they have the opportunity to touch and feel the world in a new and interesting way.
Fifteen years later I still get great joy from witnessing the change and catalyzing these moments. It is incredibly rewarding to be part of a project that offers up the conditions for change and enables people to tap into perspectives that they would simply not get in any other area of their life.
Changing the status quo
There is no doubt that we are hugely influenced by those with whom we spend most time. This feels comfortable for us as our natural confirmation biases are rewarded when we hear or see things that validate what we already suspected to be true. But in many spheres of our lives, including at work, our cognitive biases are keeping us trapped in the status quo and, since we are attracted unconsciously to people who think like us, we lose out on the power of diverse thinking.
Our perspective can be expanded in many ways whether it be through hobbies, travel, volunteering or being intentional about who we spend time with in our organisations. But for senior business leaders who have very little free time, these opportunities can feel few and far between. This is why Questing is such a rich experience.
We know that many senior leaders no longer commute. They no longer travel as much. They no longer come across the diversity of people that they did in the past. So, cocooned in an ever-shrinking bubble of CEO forums, business travel and time with like-minded peers, the perspective of these global leaders risks being not very global at all.
If we can break this habit, we have the opportunity to live a much richer life. When we take intentional steps towards more diversity in our lives, we broaden our horizons, find common ground and create meaningful interactions. A worldview that is informed by diverse perspectives, such as those we enable during our Quests, brings personal enrichment, better communication skills, more capacity for empathy, and career advantages. In a world where we seem to be ever more global, yet ever more isolated, I believe taking time out to expand our worldview is invaluable.