Rickover on Humble Pie

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, who brought the numerous advantages of nuclear propulsion to the United States Navy, had the following to say, among many other valuable job-related insights, about the value of admission -- the first stage of correcting a major error:

It is a human inclination to hope things will work out, despite evidence or doubt to the contrary. A successful manager must resist this temptation. This is particularly hard if one has invested much time and energy on a project and thus has come to feel possessive about it. Although it is not easy to admit what a person once thought correct now appears to be wrong, one must discipline himself to face the facts objectively and make the necessary changes - regardless of the consequences to himself. The man in charge must personally set the example in this respect. He must be able, in effect, to "kill his own child" if necessary and must require his subordinates to do likewise. I have had to go to Congress and, because of technical problems, recommend terminating a project that had been funded largely on my say-so. It is not a pleasant task, but one must be brutally objective in his work. 
Rickover thought he had a good idea, but learned that he was wrong. He had the good sense to admit as much, rather than obstinately stick to his guns, or double down on what he had come to realize was actually a folly.

Many people in our culture would mistakenly accuse someone who failed to do what Rickover did of being too "proud" to admit his error, but that is exactly the opposite of the problem. This is most easily grasped by taking the use of pride in the idiom, "pride in a job well done", as being closer to the true meaning of pride than the arrogance or putting-on-of-airs too commonly (and wrongly) associated with that virtue.

-- CAV

--- In Other News ---

I can't use Item 4 on the list, but this list of the Top Ten Slate Readers' Best Ideas for Starting a Business or Reinventing a Career is worthwhile. Item 5 is, for example, the idea of "market disruption" applied to the individual level.

Alan Greenspan's betrayal of capitalism has, fortunately, not made it impossible for people to "trust a Randian banker". Thank you, Mr. Allison!

I already had the flashlight when I ran into this list of free apps that can "turn your [Android] device into a digital toolbox".

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