Project Management

You’re Never Too Experienced to Fake it ‘Til You Learn It

How do they do it? Some novices can get away with murder, or so it appears. In a Harvard Business Review article by Herminia Ibarra, we’ll learn how to start faking our knowledge and prestige as a sound tactic for evolving into a desired role. The novice who suddenly finds themselves managing their seniors didn’t get there because of “politics.” It’s about psychology, dear Watson.

Who are You Anyway?

The basic concept for filling in those ‘big shoes’ is to “fake it till you learn it,” says Ibarra. It’s actually a common practice among younger employees, but as people grow into their roles, they start to identify with their newfound status, and that can lead them to cling to their ‘authentic selves’ in a way that stymies development later in one’s career life:

With experience and success, our habitual ways of thinking and doing become more entrenched and our work identities solidify. We value authenticity, so we continue to act in accordance with our sense of who we are — even when it becomes patently ineffective. Unfortunately, the effort we put into protecting our “true” identities can really hold us back later in our careers, when we’re trying to build on past successes to take on new and bigger roles or responsibilities as leaders.

Identity Shape-Shifters

Psychologist Mark Snyder calls those who are adept at personality-stretching ‘chameleons.’ Being a chameleon does not entail abandoning your core identity or your genuine objectives. It means that in a given situation, you are able to shape-shift your personality, to adapt as the situation dictates. That feeling of being a fraud when we begin to imitate others is natural. But this, Ibarra says, should not deter us from achieving our goals and dreams. Getting inside the brain of another person is not inauthentic. It’s how we humans are able to get the job done.

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