June 18, 2013
Good post from Mind Hacks: When giving reasons leads to worse decisions
Hat tip; @IdeaFestival
June 10, 2013
I've been reflecting on the training business a lot lately. Partly because I've been experimenting with some ideas at Edges of Work.
So much training seems to lure us in with offers of highly structured content. I get it. There's something very alluring about that promise of "You will learn..." followed by several bullet points. It's a sweet poison. On one level, we are being comforted by how useful this course will be and how much we will benefit. But what's that slight feeling of discomfort, that sense of our pocket being fingered?
I think it's that these reductionist lists also intimidate us. Oh, we didn't know how little we actually knew. If we don't go on this course and learn the seven secrets, what chance do we stand of survival in this cruel world?
But these lists are a bit of a con. They are really reductions of the truth, not the real thing, and their inauthenticity is what, I reckon, accounts for that sinking feeling. When knowledge is reduced to content, the real life goes out of it.
It's been quite frustrating following the coverage of the PRISM scheme to monitor internet activity. I see again how people at the top of any hierarchy seem to think the answer to all issues is for them to have more power and control. The foolish objections of the citizenry are met the with almost contemptuous disdain: why can't you just trust us to take care of this? These people can often talk the language of networks and freedom, it's just that they walk the walk of something altogether different.
The trouble with having centralised power is that you just can't see how corrupting it is. The answer to the inherent defects of centralised power is... to centralise more power. All very spider vs starfish.
May 31, 2013
This June, I'll be helping to facilitate at Connect + Act, an event organised by the Campaign to End Loneliness. It's one of the paradoxes of our uber-connected world that loneliness remains so prevalent, especially when its impact is so clearly adverse for people. This campaign focuses on loneliness in old age. I'm looking forward to an engaging day, I know the organisers are making a real effort to create an engaging event. I'll be doing a bit of world cafe/open space type stuff in the afternoon.
At the moment, the event is sold out but there is a waitlist.
May 27, 2013
While we're thinking about not falling in love with our schtick, I thought this was a good read: The Myth and Milleniallism of Disruptive Innovation. I think this is a good pushback to an idea about innovation to which it's easy to get attached. One man's disruptive innovation is another's ego trip. Some things done in the name of creative destruction are more the latter than the former. I am wary of the tendency for innovation to be treated as a macho, high-status game. And every process casts its own shadow.
Hat tip: Tim Kastelle's tweet.
I thought this was pretty funny.
It captures one of the classic ideas of Mars and Venus relationships and takes it to the extreme.
I think it's a reminder to all of us about falling in love in with our supposed insights into ourselves. What may start as something that supports us in our individuality easily just becomes a piece of schtick, what Eric Berne would call a wooden leg.
Whatever notions we hold in our head about who we are and how life works, it's ridiculously easy to filter the evidence to confirm them, instead of being awake to what's actually happening in the moment.
My own version of this is usually signalled whenever I explain that I'm an introvert. There may be some general pattern that supports that view, but it so easily becomes just an excuse to stay stuck when a more playful approach would serve better.
May 24, 2013
Alex Mayyasi reports some fascinating research on how much we actually learn from apparently brilliant talks, compared to the more normal dreary ones. Groups were shown two presentations, one TED-esque and sparkling and one where the speaker droned on reading from notes.
Unsurprisingly, the first one was much more highly rated than the second. People thought they got a lot from it.
But when researchers objectively measured what people had actually learnt... there was little difference.
Of course, a great talk will get spread a lot more so it's certainly still useful for the speaker to put on a good show.
But this tends to underline my own feeling that the format of expert lecturer is really fundamentally flawed. It's simply not the great way for people to learn that we all were made to believe in school. Presentation skills may be the popcorn of learning.
This reminds me of Keith Sawyer's brilliant study of perceptions of creativity (blogged here). We kid ourselves that we're more creative under stress, when adrenalin is flowing. But objectively it seems creativity is actually a much more ordinary process.
Too many innovation agencies peddle what I call the sugar-and-caffeine approach to creativity: lots of buzz and excitement, the conflation of high energy and stimulation with productivity.
Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan
May 19, 2013
I revisited this article about Baba Shiv's research on how easily our brain tires of rational processing.
In one experiment, led by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, several dozen undergraduates were divided into two groups. One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were presented with two different snack options: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad.Not much of a difference you might think. But
The students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to Prof. Shiv, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain—they were a "cognitive load"—making it that much harder to resist a decadent dessert. In other words, willpower is so weak, and the prefrontal cortex is so overtaxed, that all it takes is five extra bits of information before the brain starts to give in to temptation.So the next time you allow people to bore each other to death with powerpoint, just bear in mind all the unchecked impulses you're setting up for. And don't ask why your Q and A session ends up being so fragmented and tiresome.