Self-Management: Responsibility Over Reality


Today we celebrate the launch of a new book by our guest author, Sunnie Giles. This excerpt from The New Science of Radical Innovation will challenge you with the question, “Am I the type of person/leader who takes responsibility for their reality?” Far too often I know I find myself blaming my reality on “circumstances” or the decisions of other people. And unfortunately, that stunts my ability to grow, influence, and innovate.


Quantum Leaders understand they are responsible for, and create, their reality—they are authors of their own destiny.


They are agents unto themselves; they act rather than are acted upon. For example, if the reality is that the product marketing team they manage doesn’t carry a lot of credibility in the company because it has frequently missed deadlines and broken commitments to other departments, they take responsibility for creating that reality, instead of looking to external explanations, such as the legal department that sat on the product release sheet too long before giving approval, or the vendor who didn’t produce the prototype model in time.


When something bad happens, they first reflect on what they did to contribute to or cause the situation. This is such an important concept to emotional well-being that many synonymous phrases have been coined in psychology to describe it: self-efficacy, free will, and internal locus of control.


Internal locus of control refers to attributing what happens to your life to what you can control. If you have an internal locus of control, you attribute your professional success to your actions and attitudes, instead of external factors such as your boss or industry. Studies show that those with a higher internal locus of control report higher job satisfaction and job performance, better quality of relations with their managers, lower stress, and higher academic achievement.


Even perceived (not actual) control has a positive impact on performance.


In a study, subjects were exposed to loud noises while being asked to solve an insoluble puzzle and proofread for errors. Some were provided a kill switch to stop the noise if it became unbearable. Those who had the option of turning off the noise made almost five times as many attempts at the insoluble puzzle, and significantly fewer errors in proofreading, than those without a kill-switch option. This study showed that just a perception of control improved performance.


This is the reason Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset, encourages parents and teachers to compliment children on their efforts instead of their intelligence or looks. Children have control over their efforts, but not over their IQ or natural appearance. Children feel helpless and, worse, conditionally loved when they feel they are judged by a factor they have no control over.


It turns out that an internal locus of control is important not only because it is an essential skill for effective self-management—and hence providing safety for others—but also because it has a lot to do with capability for innovation.

About Dr. Sunnie Giles:

Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership.

An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.

Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.


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