Tell Me Something I Don't Know

PUBLISHED ON OCT 11, 2010 — RANT

There are a bunch of weaknesses and biases in the way our minds work in the modern world. The biases are hard to see; thinking about your brain is kind of like trying to see your own eye without a mirror. Most of us never seek out any information about how our own minds work. We certainly aren’t taught much of any value about it in school. This is a huge gap, like failing to teach personal finance and routine economics.

Today I’m thinking about confirmation bias. This is a tendency for people to seek out and hear only things that reinforce opinions they already hold. It is a part of an overall problem of pattern recognition, we frequently miss things that don’t have a close referent. Information that is too new, too diverse from what we already know, is so hard to grasp it flies right by unnoticed. This concept blindness is the root cause of Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

We’re comfy and cozy ensconced in information that fits our world-view.

And we’re lazy.

If you are any sort of leader within your organization, a founder, a CEO, a team lead, you must seek out diversity. I’m not talking about political correctness diversity, I’m talking about people who don’t think just like you. That difference may be culture, age, education focus, even industry. All too often I run across organizations that are made up of individuals who are greatly similar to each other. Having a team made up of people who will reach the same conclusion with the same data will cause you to ignore danger, miss opportunity, and squander talent.

If you are presenting information to a team, a board, a conference, a classroom, make an effort. Challenge preconceived notions, your own and theirs. Map out the distance between where people’s understanding is currently, and where it needs to go, and the intermediate concepts and understandings that will get them from A to B. Most of us just aren’t able to make the leap in one shot.

I’m tired of conferences where the presenters trot out their edgy take on something, in front of a self-selected audience that happens to be remarkably of the same opinion. This isn’t’ challenging. Make an effort, push the boundary.

Tell me something I don’t know.

Keeping an open mind is something that has to be worked at, or it will atrophy like any muscle.

Ignorance is not the problem in the world. It’s the things people “know” that aren’t so. — Will Rogers

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