Businessmen, Learn From Cab Drivers

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CEOs may be masters of the business world, but does their professional success breed an overconfidence that should be cause for concern? Litigator-turned-blogger Stephen Adshead thinks so. Guest-blogging for Anthony Painter's blog, Adshead comments on a bizarre end to a recent case in the British courts.

In the course of the case, Joe Galloway, former Managing Director of a British company, had stated that he received an MBA degree from Concordia College, St. Johns when "he had in fact purchased in MBA online." Galloway was eventually tripped up, Adshead writes, when he "sized up" the opposing barrister for Sky and decided to describe memories of Concordia. He described the classrooms and his schoolmates. Then the opposing barrister blew it apart:
The schadenfreude for Sky’s legal team...reached climax several days later, when Sky’s barrister presented to the Court an MBA that Lulu, his dog, had been awarded from the same college; Lulu managing to get a better mark than Galloway. The money-shot was when Sky’s barrister presented a letter of recommendation to Lulu from the President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia College.
Adshead asserts that while the legal implications of the case are important, the psychological dimensions of the trial--"namely Galloway’s overconfidence ... when betting that Sky’s barrister had not done his due diligence on the MBA"--have larger lessons. Can this sort of overconfidence, which can lead powerful people to rash decisions, be unlearned? Adshead argues that it can, taking a lesson from London's infamous taxis. "At The Knowledge College - I jest not – drivers study the shortest route between all roads within a six mile radius of Charing Cross, in the process enlarging their hippocampus (an area of the brain associated with memory)," writes Adshead. "But in a unique way, drivers – frequently young males from East London and full of swagger – are also taught conflict management, in particular the benefit of humility." 

Such a test could teach CEOs like Galloway a lesson, Adshead suggests: 
Galloway – had he passed the Knowledge – would have answered Sky’s barrister humbly and as follows: ‘I am sorry if my statement misled the Court. I purchased the MBA.’ No more, no less. He might have felt insecure before the more educated barrister, and momentarily foolish, but the rest of his evidence would not have been tainted, and EDS might not be facing stratospheric damages.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.