Boringness as a Badge of Honor

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We all love excitement, right? Companies aim to thrill us with cinematic keynotes and dazzling product launches, while charismatic figureheads like Tesla’s Elon Musk and the legendary Steve Jobs gain celebrity beyond their executive roles.

But, for the most part, excitement is bad business—at least when the vanilla approach is already working. Which is easy to forget, especially if you’re an ambitious entrepreneur.

A series by Canadian Business magazine looks to highlight how “boring is brilliant,” showcasing the benefits of stoicism amidst temptations to veer down a shinier path.

Boring, it turns out, is good business—sometimes even great business. Entrepreneurs chase fads and trends. Investors, eager to be seen as cutting edge, fund questionable ventures that have a sheen of excitement to them. The media . . . valorize startups that have yet to turn a profit, insisting they’re doing something that will change the world. Meanwhile, low-profile, unglamorous companies rake in real money in obscurity.

“In countless studies of what makes successful leaders, it’s hard not to see dullness as an underlying theme,” writes Joe Castaldo. “Research by Steven Kaplan at the Chicago Booth School of Business found successful CEOs are fixated on details, rarely cut corners and are content to work long hours. Another study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that conscientiousness was one of the biggest predictors of CEO success. Researchers from the National University of Singapore and Arizona State University looked specifically at humility in leaders and found that humble CEOs foster more effective, profitable teams.”

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It’s a tough pill to swallow. We all want to believe we can be exceptions to the rule. But if we want to build a better business, boring may be best.

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