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How to Avoid the Pitfalls of 'I Get It' Syndrome

Presume nothing, question everything.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The "I get it" syndrome applies to just about everything in life and business. Our life's activities can seem little more than a series of entombed black boxes that we string together to form our days.


Contained within each black box is a limited definition of a word or concept that we have already decided we "get." We instinctively decide that we already know about it and need not waste another moment exploring the matter. This creates a very superficial perspective on our world. Deeper insights, new opportunities and new perspectives are ignored. Our mindset becomes frozen. Refreshing, stimulating and constructive ideas are brushed to the wayside. Creativity and imagination are lost to rote behavior and narrow-mindedness.

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Teamwork is but one example of the far more general concept of the "I get it" syndrome. In my business, I work on various projects with different teams on a daily basis. It's often necessary to discuss the importance of teamwork, but the greatest challenge in doing so is "I get it." Most everyone has already heard and formed opinions about the nature of teamwork. As a result, I can almost see my words bouncing off of the listener. Their mannerisms and the look in their eyes seem to say, "I already know about teamwork. This is boring. What else can you tell me?"

As with just about everything in life, teamwork can be understood on different levels. Once the dreaded syndrome kicks in, it's like the notion of teamwork is entombed in a black box and tucked away on a shelf in the closet, never to be dealt with again. Such things cannot be condemned to a simple definition. They must be kept alive, explored and actively worked with to be of any use. In the case of teamwork, the notion must be applied uniquely with every individual and every team encountered.

Some people might view teamwork as a rah-rah pep rally. Looking at teamwork this way can be of some value, but we can also go much deeper. For example, teamwork can be a sense of caring about and supporting one another on a daily basis. Other people may view teamwork as clearly defined tasks and boundaries prescribed to each individual. That too has value, but taken in isolation it can be far too limiting, inflexible and perhaps impractical.

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It is remarkable to witness how the "I get it" limitation creeps in at the highest corporate levels. For example, when the telephone industry became deregulated, AT&T bigwigs found the new paradigm impossible to assimilate. For some time, they continued to function in accord with their monopolistic "I get it" syndrome mentality with respect to the telephone industry. They felt they already understoof exactly how their industry functioned and just couldn't see past it.

Bill Gates saw beyond the early stages of the computer world, warning early innovators they should patent their software. But those innovators were sure they already got how the computer world functioned and considered the very idea of patent a sacrilege. They just couldn't see past it. Of course Gates went on to patent software, eventually becoming the wealthiest man in the world.

Another example is Steve Jobs, who looked deeper into how people were interfacing with their computers and cell phones. He broke the boundaries of the "I get it" syndrome to become another multibillionaire.

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The way to move beyond the "I get it" syndrome is really quite simple -- question everything. Question your preconceived notions of how your business works. Question the nature of your niche. Question your corporate structure. Question your notions of trust, finances and human relations. Take the time to reflect upon and look deeper into all aspects of your business, particularly those that don't seem to be working. Consider how your preconceived notions have limited your creativity and your options.

The notion of the "I get it" syndrome can act as an ongoing catalyst to perpetually move your business endeavors forward. Just don't turn it into another black box that you stash away in the back of your mind's closet.

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