To the Point

Why Being Overconfident Can Hurt You Professionally

There is a lot to be gained by keeping an open mind and seeking out new ideas.

Feeling good about our abilities or trusting in the abilities of those around us — isn’t that a good thing? Certainly, but as Ulrich Boser points out in his new book, Learn Better:Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything, overconfidence can be a big reason adults cease to learn. “When people are overconfident, they don’t ask themselves questions,” Boser writes. “If we think we know something, we’re simply not going to take the hard steps of relating ideas or elaborating on what we know.”

So while it might seem like having self-confidence is key to a successful career, there’s a fine line: You still need to admit that you don’t know all there is to know. There’s a lot to gain by seeking out new sources of information, engaging with people with different backgrounds and experiences, and keeping an open mind to fresh ideas.

It was with this mindset that more than 800 business-events professionals gathered in New York City last month for PCMA’s annual Education Conference. Just by being there, those participants were acknowledging that they were open to new ways of doing business.

Likewise, at PCMA, we acknowledge that there are always new and better ways we can help attendees learn. So this year, we took on the logistical challenge of transporting attendees to six different venues for Monday afternoon’s education program. This gave attendees the opportunity to invigorate their senses and immerse themselves in a trendy or iconic Manhattan venue. And we threw in an additional twist: Attendees didn’t find out where they were headed until they were en route. 

Taking event organizers out of their comfort zone and into a new environment enhanced their learning experience. Research shows that being in new or uncomfortable situations can lead to better memory retention. 

Another new element this year: a hackathon to tackle the challenge of building vibrant, high-sharing communities during events and after they conclude. Three teams spent Tuesday hammering out a breakthrough business solution. Competing concepts were presented as part of Wednesday’s Main Stage presentation and judged by the audience. Each member of the winning team was awarded a $500 prize.

The result was a win-win learning experience not only for those who participated, but for audience members who learned about each team’s innovative solution. It also gave participants a chance to see a gamified learning experience — an on-trend interactive format — in action.

In the end, it seems confidence is a good thing — provided you’re confident enough in yourself or your organization to say, “We don’t know everything. But we’ll be even better at what we do after we take the time to learn together.”

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.