imposter-syndrome

Imposter Syndrome In Business

Imposter Syndrome is a feeling of extreme self-doubt which leads to paralysis in decision-making. In short, the person feeling like an “imposter” will not be able to perform her/his duties due to a feeling of inappropriateness.

When does imposter syndrome happen?

Someone with imposter syndrome doubts their talents, skills, or abilities despite their education, accomplishments, or experience.

Imposter syndrome tends to be present in competitive environments or where one’s performance is measured in some way.

As a result, it may be particularly prevalent among college students (particularly medical students) and high-level professionals.

Several types of imposters can also provide clues as to what causes the syndrome:

  1. Workaholic imposters – these individuals may overwork in response to job insecurity, potential demotion, or to avoid being seen as incapable in their roles. Workaholics may also spend excessive amounts of time on a task and develop perfectionist tendencies.
  2. Lucky duck imposters – employees who believe that a promotion, raise, or positive performance review is down to luck, chance, or happenstance.
  3. Chameleon imposters – those classified as chameleon imposters prefer to work alone because they fear their shortcomings will be exposed when working as part of a team. Unfortunately, these individuals avoid attention and fear recognition – no matter how well they have performed. 

When is imposter syndrome good?

In some instances, the imposter syndrome might be a good feeling, as it might help you pass through some critical obstacles by putting in more work and building more competence.

In those cases, the imposter syndrome works as a form of positive paranoia, which leads to improvement.

In these cases, the imposter syndrome working as constructive paranoia improves you as a business person.

When is imposter syndrome bad?

In the worst case, imposter syndrome can limit you to the point of making you paralyzed and unable to make any decisions.

In these cases, rather than working as a constructive paranoia, the imposter syndrome works as a limiter for growth.

In these cases, it is essential to analyze why you’re getting too paranoid and what you can do to use this feeling to improve.

Dunning-Kruger effect vs. imposter syndrome

dunning-kruger-effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where someone with low talent, skill, or ability overestimates their own competence.

In describing the difference between the Dunning-Kruger effect and imposter syndrome, many explain that one is simply the opposite of the other.

Employees who suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect experience a cognitive bias where they overestimate their skills, abilities, or knowledge.

Compounding the effect is a lack of self-awareness that would enable them to first identify and then fix their errors.

They may also fail to recognize the actual competence of others and their somewhat arrogant nature can cause conflict in the workplace.

Employees with imposter syndrome underestimate their skills, abilities, or knowledge.

Many of these individuals are high achievers, but they may feel like a fraud, doubt their abilities, or question whether they are deserving of any accolades.

In other words, they feel like imposters. Like the Dunning-Kruger effect, the individual may be unaware that they are impacted by imposter syndrome.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is based on the idea that the knowledge one requires to be competent at a task is the same knowledge one needs for self-awareness.

This explains why employees who suffer from the effect are unable to comprehend how poorly they are performing. 

There are two other drivers of the Dunning-Kruger effect:

  • Lack of metacognition – metacognition is the ability to analyze one’s behavior more objectively. Victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect lack the self-awareness to develop a realistic assessment of their abilities.
  • Overconfidence – this can also lead to poor performance or subject knowledge. While these employees are usually ignorant, their overconfidence causes them to believe that the knowledge they do possess makes them an expert. Think of a start-up entrepreneur who launches one successful company and then believes that all future business endeavors will be successful. 

In short:

  • The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where someone with low talent, skill, or ability overestimates their own competence. Someone with imposter syndrome, on the other hand, doubts their talents, skills, or abilities despite their ability or competence.
  • The Dunning-Kruger effect is based on the idea that the knowledge one requires to be competent at a task is the same one needs for self-awareness. Overconfidence and a lack of objectivity also cause the effect.
  • Imposter syndrome tends to be present in competitive environments or where one’s performance is measured in some way. Several types of imposters hint at possible explanations for its presence.

Key takeaways

  • Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequateness of an individual in a specific situation, making that person unable to make any decisions.
  • In some cases, the imposter syndrome can lead to constructive paranoia, which leads to growth.
  • In other cases, it can lead to complete paralysis.
  • The imposter syndrome is the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect, where someone overestimates her/his own skills for a given task, thus making bad decisions or more risks for the situation at hand!

Connected Business Concepts

Barbell Strategy

barbell-strategy
A Barbell strategy consists of making sure that 90% of your capital is safe, and using the remaining 10%, or on risky investments. Applied to business strategy, this means having a binary approach. On the one hand, extremely conservative. On the other, extremely aggressive, thus creating a potent mix.

Technological Modeling

technological-modeling
Technological modeling is a discipline to provide the basis for companies to sustain innovation, thus developing incremental products. While also looking at breakthrough innovative products that can pave the way for long-term success. In a sort of Barbell Strategy, technological modeling suggests having a two-sided approach, on the one hand, to keep sustaining continuous innovation as a core part of the business model. On the other hand, it places bets on future developments that have the potential to break through and take a leap forward.

Heuristics

heuristic
As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

bounded-rationality
Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Second-Order Thinking

second-order-thinking
Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

lateral-thinking
Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

moonshot-thinking
Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Biases

biases
The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

dunning-kruger-effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

occams-razor
Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

mandela-effect
The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

crowding-out-effect
The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

bandwagon-effect
The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What is marketing can be associated with social proof.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger

Read Next: HeuristicsBiases.

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