The amount of confirmation and negativity bias used by leaders to sway personnel to their point of view is alarming some days. In a meeting they may even have someone pull up data and looking at one data point tell everyone how it shows their supposition is correct. Occasionally, someone who has some inclining of statistics and probability asks, “What’s the denominator?” Or, “Where does that data point fall with respect to similar items or the entire data set?” A little knowledge and experience is used to bully others into believing in a point of view. Data is looked at as either confirming or denying instead of representing the systemic perspective. The more subtle knowledge bullies talk about understanding the system and even recognizing biases but have little to no humility to question their own.
The bullying in the school yard becomes board room snobbery. Unfortunately, there is a bully in each and everyone of us. Some have simply silenced their inner bully and learned to collaborate. We all think the best of ourselves and thus we are the issue or at least we get in the way of ourselves and open honest collaboration. New ideas come our way and we unconsciously sort it into our preconceived notions. We claim openness yet inside are sorting everything into buckets of understanding or emotionally comfortable zones of identity. Recognizing this in myself, I look forward to using more algorithms in our lives as they will be based in a lot more objective reality and data than we can ever comprehend individually. The world is already better for its use of the simple algorithms being used by big companies. Of course there are problems like information bubbles, fake news, and click bait. We create more problems with every advance and solution to prior problems. Certainly, we need to be concerned about privacy, free speech, and the right to decide for ourselves but the tools available to us can help us overcome the road blocks to wisdom we place in front of ourselves at least in our own minds. The big data companies are being exposed and the control they have on our lives will be explored and regulated at some point leaving us to establish new baselines for future progress.
As Steven Pinker alludes to in his new book, Enlightenment Now, we are on a continuum of progress and yet do not see it due to our biases and natural focus on the short term. Reading Steven Pinker’s book is an experience of accepting the data and nudging our negativity, regency, and availability biases off the thrown of our inflated ego. Steven uses data to show how we are making progress despite our thinking to the contrary. He uses long-term trends to understand our human condition and provide insight into how we can keep the progress going, not only as a species but as individuals moving in the river of time. Perhaps our leaders, knowledge bullies and prophets of systems thinking can read it to lose the edge of certainty their egos wield in meetings and interactions. Enlightenment is something we can all benefit from especially when it lightens our ego and heaven forbid if we actually pop the balloon of our egos to reveal the existence between our thoughts and feelings. I think it’s time to cultivate our empathy, soften our certainty, and accept ideas others have so we can generate better solutions to the problems we face in our lives. By opening ourselves to the possibilities of being manipulated by our own minds, we come closer to solutions benefiting all of us whether that be in the workplace, in our personal relationships, or as the human family. In doing so, we manage our biz in win-win ways in lieu of knowledge bullying win-lose confirmation and negativity biased ways.
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