What the Firefox Principle Says About You

What the Firefox Principle Says About You

Quinn McDowell 5 min read

Warm Up

The Firefox principle shows us how leaders can transcend the “default” culture that stifles our creative potential so that we are unleashed to become the dynamic leaders we were born to be.

“Default” options are all around us. Many of the choices we make each day are influenced by what others have chosen to be the default option ahead of time. Most of the time we unknowingly choose the status quo because to move outside of the default option requires us to transcend what is normal and comfortable.

To move beyond the default option requires us to do the difficult work of searching for a better way forward.

Wrapping our arms around this principle asks us to challenge what we have been taught and to believe that there might be a new way to get things done. As leaders it requires us to become the type of people who are curious enough to do the hard work of creative trial and error in order to raise our team’s level of performance and maximize our impact as leaders.


In order to do meaningful work, we must traverse the force field of the default options that hold us back and transcend to a higher plane of creative problem solving in order to separate ourselves from the pack.

In his book, Originals, Adam Grant tells a story about one researcher who set out to discover why some customer service agents stayed in their jobs longer than others. Researcher Michael Housman collected data from over thirty-thousand employees as he began searching for patterns that would explain why some representatives stayed in their jobs and performed better than others.

On a whim he compared employees who used Safari and Internet Explorer web browsers versus those who used Firefox or Chrome and the results were astounding. Housman found that those employees who used Firefox or Chrome remained in their jobs 15% longer, were 19% less likely to miss work, had significantly higher sales rates, and much happier customers.

Housman had discovered the “Firefox Principle.”

The thrust of Housman’s findings had nothing to do with whether Safari is a better internet browser than Firefox, or whether Chrome makes workers more productive than Internet Explorer. Instead, he discovered that the employees browser choice signaled something important about their habits that allowed them to significantly out-perform their peers.

Here’s the powerful principle of his research: the Safari and Internet Explorer web browsers are the default options that come with either a Mac or Windows computer. Conversely, Chrome and Firefox browsers must be manually downloaded if employees want to use them.

The employees that took the time and energy to download Chrome or Firefox demonstrated a resourcefulness, a curiosity, and a creativity that led them to find a better method of doing their work. This simple task of challenging the status quo correlated to huge uptick in performance.

The “Firefox Principle” is based on three things:

A commitment to continuous improvement

The leader that makes the biggest impact is often the leader that is most relentless in their pursuit to do great work. As followers of Christ we believe that we were created in the image of the one who designed and made the entire world. This reality should blow us away. It should give us the fuel to do the difficult work of constantly finding ways to improve our creative output:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10

A commitment to challenging default thinking

Innovation starts with simply asking “Why?” Innovation requires that we have the courage and curiosity to invent a better way of doing things and not settle for how things have always been done. Great leader’s become miniature inventors in their spheres of influence—even if it’s as simple as downloading a new web browser!

Leaders who embrace the Firefox Principle are in a perpetual pursuit of finding a better way forward.

A commitment to creative problem solving

Asking questions, reading new books, listening to those who disagree with you, and experimenting with new ideas are all ways that leaders can strive to creatively solve the inevitable challenges of leadership. Don’t settle for just good enough!


Pick one area of your life that you know has grown stale or become stagnant.

Write three specific commitments based the Firefox Principle to get the creative juices flowing again:

My commitment to continuously improve in this area:

My commitment to challenge the default thinking in this area:

My commitment to creative problem solving in this area: