Neither the ‘Toyota Production System’ nor ‘lean management’ would exist today had Taiichi Ohno been a reasonable man. Thank heavens he was, in his own words, "amanojyaku" or a person who’s contrarian and who purposely does the opposite of what others do and breaks rules just to see what may happen. George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world, while unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to them (selves). All progress therefore, depends on unreasonable people’. Look at the people that are our religious leaders, politicians, bureaucrats, police officers, doctors, teachers and scientists, managers and entrepreneurs, creative creators, or for that matter mother/daughter in-laws’, traffickers in the snarl ups/queues and so on. In our day in and day out encounter with these people, there are those whose works, beliefs, or actuations are ridiculed. They hold fast in the face of strong opposition, and ultimately are acknowledged as right. We call them “unreasonable people”, and we tend to be fond of them.
They’re like muscles that never developed or atrophied from years of disuse. Unreasonable persons are like children in adult bodies, which is why dealing with them can be like dealing with children. They lose sight of their goals and will rather “win” the conflict. They speak for their Achilles’ heel and downbeat attitude towards life. They lose sight of their logic and rationality and are drowned by their emotion. And, when they feel that they’ve been wronged, their emotions lead to settling of scores over and over. Definitely, they desire revenge or retribution. They desire punishment.
Those, that are exceptionally over-confident (and unreasonable) most likely leave behind some wreckage in their wake. In our bureaucratic leviathan (nobody’s crystal clear who’s contributing what) it’s this lot that invariably goes top, quicker and further. For they send out more ‘competence cues’---- the unreasonable fellows talk louder, speak more assertively, make emphatic gestures---people tend to assume these things mean they must be good at their job. Besides because they’re good at something, people think, they’ll be good at something else too. A feedback loop is created; they get promoted which makes them more confident & spins them further up the hierarchy. Then these people hire and promote other people in their own image who speak well and are possessed of a rock solid and often unjustified confidence in the wisdom of their own decisions.
Call them ‘Lucky fools’ (as economic historian, John V. C. Nye, suggested in 1991); they’re prepared to take irresponsible risks. Without people prepared to ignore the prevailing wisdoms, disregard public information and follow their instincts, many of our biggest innovations and creative leaps forward won’t have happened. Every year thousands of people with vaulting ambitions start new ventures in full awareness that the odds are against them achieving the kind of world-changing success of which they dream. Most fail, or settle for something less, but a few of those companies become Apple or Infosys or Airtel. People write symphonies and novels that are unlikely to be any good, and search for the secret of human life in the knowledge that everyone else has tried and failed. Just occasionally somebody under such an illusion writes ‘Catch 22’, discovers DNA.
Being unreasonable may often be the only way to work some sense into people and help them see how shifting the way the world works is far more beneficial than trying to shrink, and shrink, and shrink possibility down into something that will fit inside a far too reasonable world. When we talk about changing the world for the better, we also talk about being completely unreasonable people. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's tough, and much of the time it's completely worth it. What have you done today that was unreasonable and helped make your house, your community, your city, your world better? But ambition often gets a bad rap.
In time though, the over confident and under competent get found out, do not they? Not necessarily. Over confident people are more likely to take risky decisions, and as long as they’re not insanely risky, there’s a good chance some of them will pay off, especially if the conditions in which they’re operating are favorable---- a booming industry or rising market. In these situations their failures are written off as bad luck and their successes attributed to innate brilliance. As a result they acquire superstar status and the salary to go with it. Only if they’re unlucky does something so catastrophic happen as a result of one of their decisions that they can’t escape the blame. Such catastrophes can arise when two exceptionally over confident sets of people collide with one another.
People tend to think that they’re above average at such tasks, even when they know nothing at all. When they begin to realize that they don’t know nearly as much as they thought they did, they’ll come to understand that their own efforts have fallen far short of their original goals. In a sense, the beginning of understanding and wisdom starts with the acknowledgement of ignorance. They try to shrug off the constraints of ideology or discipline, identify and apply practical solutions to problems, combining resourcefulness and opportunity. They’ve an unwavering belief in everyone’s innate capacity, often regardless of education and show a dogged determination that pushes them to take risks that others wouldn’t dare.
For most businesses, the odds are reasonably well known, and the procedures are rational. Cautious businessmen can thrive. But they won't produce a lot of innovation. And if they drive out the crazy innovators, the economy will stagnate. The ‘lucky-fools’ theory suggests, then, that Victorian Britain's economy was successful but stagnant not because investors were irrationally afraid of risks but because they’re all too mature and calculating. They didn't tolerate the foolish chances that a vital economy requires. What makes the American economy strong isn't that everyone is entrepreneurial -- most people avoid major risks -- but that the people who do undertake foolish ventures get both an opportunity to try and a way to bounce back when they fail.