The obvious characteristics of a new setting

This post is valid for people entering many different forms of new settings. Examples include starting to work at a new company, embarking on a new relationship, and living in a new country.

When you first enter a new setting, you do so with a fresh pair of eyes. You’re able to clearly see the things that make the setting valuable as well as the things that could be done differently.

As time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to see these once obvious characteristics. The reason is that, since you’ve decided to stay in the setting, you’ve effectively accepted to live with the characteristics. Staying while continuing to question the characteristics would create cognitive dissonance. So you stop questioning in order to set aside this uncomfortable cognitive dissonance.

However, the characteristics endure. As a result, if you identified them correctly, they eventually manifest themselves in the setting’s outcomes. When this happens, you can tell yourself that you knew it all along. While this may be true, this is of little consequence if you weren’t able to positively influence the outcome.

There are two takeaways from this reasoning.

The first is that the first few days or weeks that you spend in a new setting are a unique opportunity to take note of the strengths and improvement areas of the setting. This needs to be a written note rather than a mental note because your memory is likely to forget the latter in order to eliminate cognitive dissonance.

This leads to the second takeaway. Together with taking these notes, you should appreciate those characteristics that make the setting valuable while doing your best to try to change the other characteristics of the setting in a way that improves the setting’s outcomes. The latter requires patience as you need to gain credibility in the new setting, as well as the friendship and trust of the people who can help you make the necessary changes, before you can change things.

Originally published at Thoughts of a VC.