cognition

Going off the reservation, taking the road less travelled, taking a walk on the wild side…

dont-give-up  Kids boredom

In my experience, it’s the small tributaries of the river, the overlooked pockets, and the unexpected that offer the most value. Whether you’re a traveller, a student, an explorer, a researcher, or an investigator, what is fresh, what’s genuine and what is original, is the stuff outside the mainstream and off the beaten track. Another aid is in joining up our unexpected insights from one ‘tributary’ with those of another. And by holding two opposing ideas or concepts in your head (as a traveller, reflecting on what you see through local values and through your own cultural values is an example of this). In some ways, stating all this is blindingly obvious, but in others, it’s revealing a pathway to the sublime & subtle.

We make progress as a species, as a culture and as individuals, by pushing our buttons. By pushing our boundaries, making improvements and gathering new insights. So far, we’ve done this faster than any other species, except perhaps viruses. And it’s been high-growth-off-a-high-base too.

Is human love more advanced than the love shown in other species? It’s hard for us to see, even when as researchers and nature filmers, we’re looking hard. The love an animal mother shows for its offspring, given its mental and sensory capabilities, is probably just as valid as human love for other people, given our own mental and sensory capabilities. And arguably, we’re more prone to cruelty and indifference than other species too. Especially since our awareness of the World (and the Universe) is so much greater.

Finally, is it wrong to let our children get bored? On the list of wrongness towards children, I doubt it figures in the top ten, although you may disagree. However, given the direction the World is going, we’re going to need to maximise human creativity like never before.

Like for many things, the earlier you start, the more proficient you can become. Perhaps already, we provide:

-too much of too few types of entertainment and

-entertainment without mental challenge,

to the younger generations (and ourselves). As an aside, we arguably produce too much content that simply feeds our basic emotions and prejudices too.

Technology that encourages people:

-to screen out the complexities of life that we should not ignore,

-to screen out the information we need, to make informed decisions with, as parents, as voters and as citizens,

isn’t something to be applauded and worshipped. Instead, we should be critical of it and demand better. All of us, including our kids need to become those critics.

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High five the crazy

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Does the strongest form of sanity involve a bit of creative crazy paving, once in a while?

If you can switch from a serious to fun mood, does thinking improve by switching from logic to playful just as often?

Einstein said that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge.’ Gait or Stray. Left turn and right stuff. Allow your inner Vulcan to leave the urban office for the landscapes of possibility. Harvest the time you have left, learn to discover your talent and craft your balance.

I so need to take my own advice…

Time poor and technology rich

How does using technology mostly for entertainment help a person make sense of the changing World around them?

Being tech-literate isn’t the same thing as being Worldly (until the World is nothing but technology). Understanding the changing World takes constant monitoring and thinking time. If thinking time is hard or time-intensive, where-as using technology to escape thinking time is easy, what are the chances that entertainment companies will ruthlessly exploit and manipulate human nature (people’s preference for an easy life)?

Reasonable and unreasonable

Supreme Optimist

Believes a reasonable person pushed to unreasonable lengths will behave reasonably.

And believes an unreasonable person pushed to reasonable lengths will behave reasonably.

 

Optimist

Believes a reasonable person pushed to unreasonable lengths will behave unreasonably.

And believes an unreasonable person pushed to reasonable lengths will behave reasonably.

 

Pessimist

Believes a reasonable person pushed to unreasonable lengths will behave unreasonably.

And believes an unreasonable person pushed to reasonable lengths will behave unreasonably.

 

Politician

Believes a reasonable voter disappointed to unreasonable lengths will still vote for them.

And believes an unreasonable voter disappointed to unreasonable lengths still won’t vote for the opposition party.

 

Voter

Believes a reasonable politician doesn’t exist.

And believes an unreasonable politician pushed to reasonable lengths will still behave unreasonably.

Skills in your head

Originally, people were by necessity a ‘Jack or Jill’ of all trades. If something needed improving or changing, there wasn’t an 0800 number to call, or an online help manual. You just tried to fix it yourself, endured the inconvenience, or perhaps bartered some help from someone else.

Then came; trades, crafts, guilds and professions, markets, apprenticeships, vocational (on-the-job and pre-job) training, secondary education, further education, higher education, standards of proficiency, continuing professional development and the internet.

When it came to workplace innovation, employers discovered the benefits of; teamwork, specialisation, committees and project teams. Meanwhile, the employees became; empowered, customer focussed, globally inter-connected, career self-managed, social network-engaged and change-management orientated.

Artificial Intelligence in the workplace is still in its relative infancy, so we don’t yet know how it can best integrate with human endeavour to generate future innovation. In the meantime, when it comes to innovation, what’s the best human group size? Too small and both the pace and multi-dimensional thinking required will be limited. Too large and there are all the negative features of committees with; hidden agendas, political lobbying, irreconcilable differences (values or sets of information), meeting distractions and lack of responsibility taken. Perhaps an optimal size is up to boardroom size. In the same way that boards limit the number of decision-makers to a relative few, each bringing a diverse set of experience and ability to the table, teams could emulate this model too.

A handful of multi-dimensional thinkers would bring; theoretical, visual, social and analytical perspectives, coupled with some creative techniques such as the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ (de Bono) to improve on the current approach of having a bunch of narrow specialists assemble to deliver a project before handing over the result to the ‘change manager’ of the operations team to then manage.

At present, seasoned architects, engineers and product designer entrepreneurs perhaps offer a tangible illustration of a diverse set of ‘skills in your head’ to tackle complex problems in innovative ways. Why single them out as the best model for the future? They typically have a balance of creative and analytical perspectives that can operate internally to generate translatable (practical) innovation. Perhaps it’s less about their particular profession and more about their internal qualities that is the point to note. Of course put a group of them in a room and there will still be emotion, attitude, political behavior and dissent. It’s just that already self-selecting for multi-dimensional thinking, it might help them agree on a great collective solution that much faster that the current approach.

On a related note, are all jobs slowly becoming change-management jobs?

Blind spots and the way we think

If memory serves me correctly, Bill Gates once said that humans are prone to overestimating how quickly something will happen (timing proximity), but underestimating the impact when it does happen.

Meanwhile, Thomas Schelling, a Nobel-prize winning economist, said ‘there is a tendency in our planning, to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be considered seriously.’ In short, we are prone to confusing familiarity with probability.

Combining these two observations, it’s possible to create a simple matrix with familiarity and probability as the columns and timing proximity and impact as the rows. The combination of probability and impact is of course the well understood concept of risk.

In the matrix, the diagonally opposite quadrant to probability/impact is interesting – comparing familiarity with timing proximity. Arguably, this concerns flexibility – familiarity & timing proximity fostering preference, preference fostering choice and choice fostering flexibility. Then, if comparing short-term timing proximity with tangible familiarity, that’s a strong candidate for improving flexibility to cope (with a situation). However, if comparing long-term timing proximity with tangible familiarity, or short-term timing proximity with intangible familiarity, those are less strong candidates for improving the flexibility to cope.

Perhaps Schelling’s observation is valid is because we sometimes unconsciously confuse flexibility and risk? To recap, the variables of familiarity and timing proximity are reinforcing on flexibility. The variables of probability and impact are also reinforcing on risk. However, although risk can be managed by introducing greater flexibility (buying options, increasing the range, increasing the versatility or other performance improvements etc), other ways to mitigate risk are just as valid and some risks can be mitigated by decreasing the flexibility (road holding performance and car suspension or improving innovation through specialisation etc).

In conclusion, given all of our unique personalities and the complexities of how our brains work (or don’t work), I guess it’s less about solving the riddle and more about being ever watchful for the ‘sirens luring us onto the rocks, at any opportunity’.