Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara2.jpg

Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara.jpg

My Stanford psychology professor, Dr. Philip Zimbardo, and Zeno Franco, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Pacific Graduate School of Psychology wrote a terrific article called “The Banality of Heroism.”

Dr. Zimbardo ran the (in)famous Stanford Prison Experiment, so he knows how circumstances can make good people do bad things. This article is different—it’s concerned with how ordinary people can do heroic things. One example in the article is Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara (pictured here) who helped more than 6,000 Jewish people escape from Lithuania during World War II.

The short explanation of what it takes to be a hero is the presence of “heroic imagination” which the authors describe as “the capacity to imagine facing physically or socially risky situations, to struggle with the hypothetical problems these situations generate, and to consider one’s actions and the consequences.” Nurturing a heroic imagination takes five actions:

  1. Maintain constant vigilance for situations that require heroic action.

  2. Learn not to fear conflict because you took a stand.

  3. Imagine alternative future scenarios beyond the present moment.

  4. Resist the urge to rationalize and justify inaction.

  5. Trust that people will appreciate heroic (and frequently unpopular) actions.

Dr. Zimbardo and Franco are concerned with “heroic” actions in society, but a “heroic imagination” is clearly the hallmark of entrepreneurs too. I urge you to read the entire article.

Finally, Dr. Zimbardo has a new book (website) coming out called The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil which will be the topic of an upcoming “Ten Questions With…” This book is also a terrific read.