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Leadership Hats: The Dunce Cap. And Why It’s So Important

Paper Dunce Cap

I’ve been thinking about the different hats that leaders and entrepreneurs have to wear lately. Like the inventors hat, there are a lot of important hats. And this one just might be the most important of all. Why?

Sometimes you just have to dumb it down.

There are a couple of reasons why the good old rolled-up-paper dunce cap is so important. One involves options and the other involves ego.

1. How Many Options Are Too Many Options?

Options are good to have. They’re necessary. Without options, you can’t negotiate or form flexible solutions. But what if you can think of so many options that it literally paralyzes you from being able to take action. All of a sudden, having options doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

The Perfection Wall

It’s great to be able to rip apart a situation and open a whole world of possibilities. But there’s something called the perfection wall. When you can’t get past asking “what’s the best option here?” and just make a decision, you can hit that wall.

And it hurts.

And one of two things happens. Either you make no decision and the clock runs out and no decision BECOMES the decision. Or you make a less than perfect decision.

Might as well just put on your trusty dunce cap and make that less than perfect decision right now.

2. Big, Bad Egos Make Big, Bad Decisions

The absolute worst thing to do when you don’t know, is to pretend you do. Executive decisions are just that. Decisions. They’re not necessarily ideas. You don’t have to have the best idea. You just have to go with the best idea.

Leadership by ego is a great way to fast-track bad decisions. As a leader you’ve got a team. Put on your dunce cap and utilize the whole team to get the best ideas you can on the table. And then pick the best one.

Tips For Geniuses

Here’s a couple tips to help you cut through the infinite options and make great decisions quickly:

  • Got two great options and can’t decide between them? Flip a coin (this is my personal favorite).
  • Hand the decision off to your protege. And in your best Yoda voice tell them “Decide you must. Learn, you will”.
  • Put on that silly paper hat. And don’t take it off until you’ve made a decision.

It’s good to dumb it down sometimes. It makes you unstoppable. Because if you don’t know that you can’t do it, there’s a good chance you can.


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  1. It really is easy to put off decisions when there are too many promising options. But like you said, sometimes you just have to pick one and roll with it, or you’re doing nothing.

    I’ve read many times that the most successful people make decisions very quickly and confidently………..they may not always choose the best option, but they don’t waste time worrying about it.

  2. Anthony,

    My quarter always makes the right decision 🙂

  3. The dunce cap? I like it.

    The first thing I thought of was marketers or advertisers who use jargon. Jargon is a bad idea, anytime.

    Maybe Ed de Bono should’ve added the dunce cap to his six thinking hats.

  4. Dumbing down is definitely a good strategy to employ when struggling to make decisions.

    Almost like the political slogan, ‘Back to basics’ would you say?

    – Martin Reed

  5. I definitely agree with you on all of the points you made Shane…Especially the ego part. Egos can end up ruining many things…


  6. Hi David,

    I’m going to have to check out Ed de Bono’s 6 thinking hats. It sounds really interesting


    ‘Back to basics’ is a lot like this. My real inspiration is the people who just bulldoze their way to success because they don’t let anything stop them. They keep it simple and hust make it happen. And the beauty is, they usually don’t know how to make things complicated in the first place. So they don’t.

    Hey Gregg,

    Yeah, egos can ruin a lot of good things. A strong ego sometimes comes with the package when it comes to aggressive, go-get-it personalities. And there’s always a danger it can get out of hand.

  7. Ed de Bono is a great author. His book on ‘Lateral Thinking’ is also worth reading.

  8. I’ve jotted “Ed de Bono” and both those titles down on my “check it out” list. I love stuff like like that. Thanks David!

  9. […] leading a company or an organization. Some of the others I’ve talked about are the dunce cap and the inventor’s hat. The key thing to remember is that every hat is just as important as […]


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