How to Get Rid of the Status Quo Mindset

No one wants to stay in the status quo. So, why do some people perform at an exceptional level while others don't? Could it be because of the Status Quo Mindset?

The Status Quo Mindset Keeps Us From Excellence


What is the Status Quo Mindset?

The Status Quo Mindset (SQM) is a pattern of thinking that reinforces the present way of doing things. SQM resists change and embraces stability. If we are striving to reach a higher level of excellence, then we need to break through this mindset.


What is the greatest challenge to breaking SQM?

The greatest challenge to breaking SQM is accepting that our current level of performance isn't as great as we think. This is difficult because every one of us naturally has an inflated self-view. Scientist have labeled this phenomenon the Self-Serving Bias. Research shows that when we are asked how good we are at something, most of the time we report being above the average. Studies also show that we tend to attribute our successes to our own capability and our failures to external influences, such as bad luck or other people.  So the Self-Serving Bias creates a difficult barrier to overcome. To break out of the Status Quo Mindset, we must eliminate our self-bias and accept that our current state isn't good enough.


What is the solution to overcoming SQM?

The first step to overcoming SQM is to develop humility. After 40 years of experience as a business CEO, Alan Hall gives this insight: "Of all the tough lessons learned, being teachable and humble stand out as the most significant and critical attributes for success." Humility is essential for puncturing our inflated self-view. When we are humble, we can accept the fact that we are not as excellent as we think we are. This paves the way for us to grow.

The second step to overcome SQM is feedback. The US Office of Personnel Management states that "feedback is critical to improving performance." Because of the self-serving bias, we are blind to our actual level of performance. In order to see how we can improve, we need outside perspective.


How can breaking SQM lead to excellence?

I was given the task to staff a team of facilitators within a few weeks and start producing professional seminars. The applicant pool consisted of college students. I knew I'd need to train them in order to have successful seminars.

As I interviewed candidates, I looked for people whose comments reflected humility. For example, one candidate explained his incredible teaching ability. I didn't select that person. Another candidate expressed her desire to learn. I accepted that person.

My next step was to train my new facilitator team on effective facilitation skills. We drilled the content of the seminars, how to facilitate discussion, how to break the ice, and many more skills. Throughout the training experience, I provided opportunities for facilitators to give each other insights and feedback about their learning.

In a flash, our seminars started. I knew that our onboard training wasn't enough. So, I implemented a second system of feedback after each seminar. "How did the seminar go?" I'd ask facilitators. "What do you feel like went well? What could have been better?" A great discussion would ensue. At the end of the discussion, each facilitator knew what they needed to work on next to reach excellence. We continued this feedback system until the end of the program.

The growth in each facilitator was incredible. Those who were nervous at the start of the program became confident by the end; they looked like they had been teaching for years. Those who started out with a lecturing style were masters at forming engaging discussions by the end. In short, my team had reached a whole new level of excellence from when they started.

This experience opened my eyes. I believe that if I hadn't accepted candidates who were humble, we would not have accomplished what we did. I also feel the extensive feedback supported the growth of each facilitator. With humility and feedback, we were able to penetrate any illusion that the status quo was acceptable or desirable. I realize now why excellence was possible. We were able to break through the Status Quo Mindset.


Whole organizations can change their status quo


Creating widespread change challenges many companies. Fortunately, there are methods for changing behavior organizationally. To learn more, read What You Need to Know About Just-in-time Learning. For more information about behavior change, visit