Saturday, 23 January 2021

THE IMPORTANCE OF THINKING BEFORE FOLLOWING

I have been told the following and invited to comment. 

Tony Robbins was saying that he was shocked that the world would allow businesses, relationships, freedoms, opportunity to be lost by simply complying. He said that the COVID crisis has shown just how powerful fear and fear from Gov can gain compliance 

First I should set out that I am responding to the proposition above, without having heard first hand what Tony Robbins actually said or the context in which it was said. The points below are therefore a response to the proposition, not a reply to Tony Robbins.

THE PROBLEM OF OBEDIENCE

I think most of use would agree that blind or misplaced obedience is a bad thing. I highly recommend the book Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril  by Margaret Heffernan

 In the case of the US Government versus Enron, the presiding judge chose to employ the legal concept of willful blindness: you are responsible if you could have known, and should have known, something which instead you strove not to see. The guilty verdict sent shivers down the spine of the corporate world. In this book, Margaret Heffernan draws on psychological studies, social statistics, interviews with relevant protagonists, and her own experience to throw light on willful blindness and why whistleblowers and Cassandras are so rare. Ranging freely through history and from business to science, government to the family, this engaging and anecdotal book will explain why willful blindness is so dangerous in a globalized, interconnected world, before suggesting ways in which institutions and individuals can start to combat it. Margaret Heffernan's thought-provoking book will force us to open our eyes.
 
I am not knocking loyalty, commitment or pursuit of a cause in which you believe. But you should do this with your eyes open, your head engaged and your conscious clear. Anything else is tantamount to being a zombie easily influenced by propaganda and peer pressure to follow like lemmings. 
 
WE HAVE TOO MANY LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS AND NOT ENOUGH THINKERS

The problem perhaps is that we seem too willing to throw up leaders who personify our dreams of celebrity, wealth, beauty and success and then follow these people unthinkingly. I wonder how many people who 'Like' a meme, tweet, blog or article actually pause to think carefully about the complexity of the argument beyond the emotional 'me too' endorsement. Perhaps we find safety in the herd or align with the leaders or virtues in the hope that we might share some of the reflected glory or acceptance.

THE PROBLEM WITH THINKING

Thinking is actually quite hard and in a world where we are so busy and pre-packaged ideas are as readily available (and unhealthy) as packet food we risk loosing our thinking faculty. I highly recommend the following books.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin

In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow Kahneman defines two systems of the mind.

System 1: operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort, and no sense of voluntary control. Examples: Detect that one object is farther than another; detect sadness in a voice; read words on billboards; understand simple sentences; drive a car on an empty road.

System 2: allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. Often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration. Examples: Focus attention on a particular person in a crowd; exercise faster than is normal for you; monitor your behavior in a social situation; park in a narrow space; multiply 17 x 24.

I suspect we spend too much time using System 1, and simply do not engage System 2, because it is by comparison hard work.

In the book The Organized Mind Levitin demonstrates how the Information Age is drowning us with an unprecedented deluge of data, and uses the latest brain science to explain how the brain can organize this flood of information. 

Levitin then demonstrates methods that readers can use to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time. It answers three fundamental questions: Why does the brain pay attention to some things and not others? Why do we remember some things and not others? And how can we use that knowledge to better organize our home and workplaces, our time, social world, and decision making?

THE PROBLEM WITH EQUALITY 

Another problem that we have is that we treat people and too many ideas as being equal. 

Too often we think that the counter-balance to a brain surgeon should be an idiot with a belief in homeopathy and we then give them equal billing on television and social media. We somehow make the mistake of thinking that treating people equally means we should also treat all ideas equally. 

Famously Michael Gove said: I think the people in this country have had enough of experts with organisations from acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.

It is true that science sometimes gets things wrong and learns from them. But the learning process that leads from Nicolaus Copernicus, via Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking and beyond is still more reliable than "Brian from Dudley" And yet Brian, someone with no training, qualification or experience in the matter at hand is often invited to express an opinion which is broadcast in a manner that suggests that his guess, or indeed ours, is as good as any.

We support Brian in some misplaced hope that his opinion, like ours, is valuable. Brian might be a great guy, but I would not want him as my brain surgeon. I'd like an expert. However i am entirely happy for Brian to have a go with Michael Gove on a surgeons table. What could possibly go wrong?

WORKING TOGETHER VERSUS COMPLIANCE 

Words are powerful. If we say someone is compliant we might suggest they are weak willed, probably stupid, and possibly malleable . However if we say a bunch of people cooperate, collaborate and communicate to achieve consensus towards a goal, we think that is excellent. I believe thinking (and judgement) is the principle difference between the two.

WHO DO YOU BELEIVE

I think Tony Robbins is a clever guy. He knows a lot about NLP. He is a great speaker and he knows how to whip up a crowd. It would be an unfair comparison, but I could say Joseph Goebbels had many similar stills although his intend was very different. 

I do not believe Tony Robbins is virologist or immunologist. So I would be cautious of his advice on that subject. 

I recommend the book Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which make an interesting point: Be cautious of people who offer advice but no skin in the game. If someone says I recommend you buy xxxxx or you do zzzzz then my response would be have you? What was your experience of xxxxx or zzzzz. I am more likely to believe experience than advice. 

Would Tony Robbins put his money or indeed his life where his mouth is? Perhaps he might!

Something useful would be to think critically: Why might Tony Robbins say this? Some might argue that Tony Robbins stands to make more money through big crowds attending his stadium events like his than he does if they stayed safe at home. 

So on the basis that Tony Robbins is not a virologist or immunologist and what benefits him (more money from stadium events) is a disbenefit to me (a covid crowd super spreader-event) I'm not sure I will be persuaded by this proposition. 

If however Tony Robbins was to talk about NLP and how to pack a stadium then I will pay attention, because this is something in which he can demonstrate expertise and experience, and it is something I can measure and validate.


Tim HJ Rogers MBA CITP 
PROJECTS, PROGRAMMES and CHANGE /  CONSULTANT MENTOR COACH
Adapt Consulting Company 
Consult CoCreate Deliver
Mob +447797762051 Tim@AdaptConsultingCompany.com

Tim Rogers is an experienced Project and Change Leader. He is founder of ciChange.org and curator for TEDxStHelier.Com . Roles have included Programme Manager for the incorporation of Ports and Jersey, and Jersey Post, as well as Operations Change and Sales Support for RBSI/NatWest. He is also Commonwealth Triathlete and World Championships Rower. He has a passion for learning and has been a Tutor/Mentor for the Chartered Management Institute. He is a Chartered Member of the British Computer Society, has an MBA (Management Consultancy) and is both a PRINCE2 and Change Management Practitioner. 


USEFUL LINKS

1-Page Book Summary of Thinking, Fast and Slow 

https://www.shortform.com/summary/thinking-fast-and-slow-summary-daniel-kahneman?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&gclid=CjwKCAiAr6-ABhAfEiwADO4sfTbnjD9hBc5zf8tdRUPbGhNEJhZ0pmfAc15EPzpPKGIOn8o4siLyRhoCmvYQAvD_BwE



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