Following up from our post ‘How Everyone you Will Ever Meet Knows Something that You Don’t‘, the issue then becomes how to share this knowledge. How can we be in a position to better exchange knowledge through our daily interactions with people?
The reality is that 95%+ of our daily interactions with people remain at a too superficial level to figure out what it is they know we don’t know. The issue is then to figure out how to setup those conversations in a way to enrich our experience and their experience.
It all comes down to connecting in the right manner, demonstrating interest to the person, its interests and aspirations. It also come down to a benevolent attitude that does not seek immediate advantage or profit from the relationship.
Of course that takes time so we can’t do that for everyone we meet, but we can certainly do better.
Benevolence is important. I had written first the first sentence of this post “how to benefit from this knowledge”. But the point is not to benefit, but to share!
Let’s try to learn more about the world by connecting better with more people, learning exciting new stuff we did not even know existed and sharing our knowledge too!
“Everyone you Will Ever Meet Knows Something that You Don’t” is a quote by Bill Nye, and american science educator. It is a very powerful statement that I find by experience to be actually quite true. However we can only find out provided we take the time to establish the right connection to figure it out.
The reason for this situation is of course the variety of individual experience and interests.
We often tend to dismiss the knowledge that is available around us, while daily experience shows how fruitful it can be. For example on the workplace, leveraging on the interest and knowledge of the people constituting the team or the extended team is a very effective way to increase effectiveness. It is too often forgotten in particular with the race to efficiency.
Let’s never forget that anyone around us, however menial their occupation be, have something to teach us.
Hat tip to Valeria Maltoni post ‘Conversations are Not a Promotional Opportunity‘
Independence and autonomy might seem quite similar but there is a substantial difference: autonomy does not preclude asking for support and help, while independence does.
Before proceeding further, let’s note that we apply those terms here in the personal sense and not in the diplomatic sense.
This distinction between the two concepts is essential because it shows that being independent is far more limiting than being autonomous. Autonomy implies being able to take one own’s decisions but at the same draw on help and support from others to reach one’s goals.
This is why we should strive personally for autonomy, not independence.
A swivel chair is a behavioral magnifier. Hence use it when you interview someone!
This concept is for example developed in the book ‘Spy the Lie‘: “It’s worth mentioning here that when we interview someone, the last place we would want the interviewee to sit is in a straight-back chair with four legs. We want the person in a chair that has wheels, that rocks and swivels, that might even have moveable arm rests. That type of chair becomes a behavioral amplifier, magnifying those anchor-point movements and making them particularly easy to spot.”
Even in meetings it is always interesting to watch how participants relate to their chair and use all the various degrees of freedom available. It can be extremely useful during negotiations.
Train yourself to observe people on swivel chairs, and observe yourself when you are sitting on one too!
As mentioned in this paper ‘Why gut feelings may really help you make risky decisions‘, the effectiveness of gut feelings to take decisions in risky environment seems to be scientifically proven.
As mentioned in the paper, “Research has indicated that people who are better at detecting their heart rates perform better in laboratory studies of risky decision-making. When people were asked to gamble in laboratory settings, rapid and subtle bodily responses appeared to guide them away from unprofitable trades and toward profitable ones.”
The interesting aspect is that this research has been conducted on market traders, i.e. people that are used to take decisions in a complex environment under tremendous pressure. From the Nature abstract: “traders are better able to perceive their own heartbeats than matched controls from the non-trading population. Moreover, the interoceptive ability of traders predicted their relative profitability, and strikingly, how long they survived in the financial markets.”
To survive, learn to perceive your heartbeat better!
Deep conversations are arguably some of the most valuable moments we can spend.
I love this analysis of conversation from Valeria Maltoni in her post ‘Inventing Options for Mutual Gain‘:
“Conversation is not just our ability to verbalize information, it’s also our ability to process information, of becoming aware of what we know, the internal dialogue we have with ourselves and our mind, the interaction between what we think and what we say, but also between what we say and what we do.
Many of the most productive conversations we have lead to an understanding of sorts. In some cases they allow us to connect with one another in a way that leads to solving a problem, advancing a project, and creating opportunity for a next step or action.”
Spot on what a great, deep conversation can achieve.
How often do you have deep conversations? Think again. You might want to have more.
We are expecting from our leaders to be overachievers and at the same time to a flawless record of success. But wait! that’s not consistent.
If a leader has achieved something of significant in his past life, he or she will have been criticized, hated. He or she will have faced failure and disappointments. The project they were working on might only have achieved a small part of its original (grandiose) goals. Thus, an effective leader will not have had a consistent flawless record of success and approval.
When electing or choosing our leaders we need to face this paradox. And we fall into the trap so often! In large companies it is often the quiet achiever that gets promoted (to avoid controversy). In politics, any failure at any point will be duly raised up to demonstrate incapability. Dictators will re-engineer their history to appear flawless.
As a note though valid flaws should not include improper behavior and language, lack of respect etc. This shows a flaw in character, not the impact of having tried something worthwhile. These are not always easy to distinguish from valid failures but they finish by coming out in a long campaign (cf. US presidential campaign).
Inspired by Seth Godin’s post – a must read! ‘The paradox of the flawless record‘.
Another example of how algorithms rule our lives is related to employment. Algorithms sift through applications and personality tests that are increasingly common on job application sites. This is well detailed in this Guardian column: ‘How algorithms rule our working lives‘.
We had already written about how algorithms and Artificial Intelligence already influence our genes. In the essay on employment, the author shows how algorithms decide on the fate of applications taking into account a number of parameters which unfortunately appear sometimes to disadvantage the poor or sick. One other aspect is also highlighted: many companies tend to use the same algorithm/ subcontractor, therefore the lack of diversity creating exclusion.
Data crunching can surely detect certain aspects of our lives that are covered today by medical secret, by law. Anti-discrimination regulation will have to be upgraded to account for this issue.
And we will have to learn how to make our applications more machine-compliant, by adding the frequency of the right keywords too. All in all, our internet presence will become increasingly an important factor to master so as to project the right image to the algorithms that will take important decisions for our lives.
Going deeper in our exploration of the relativity of our mental structures, this excellent article ‘How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language‘ is also very insightful.
Research shows that we definitely have different ethical standpoints depending on the language we use. In particular it would seem we are more deliberate (rational) when using a foreign language. There are several explanations for this – the effort needed to operate in the foreign language, or the fact that our original language is related to so many emotions, which the foreign language is less.
Whatever the deep explanation, this creates significant issues when working internationally, for example when negotiating an agreement with someone in his native language. The fact that the foreign speaker will be more deliberate and less emotional is rarely considered.
“Leaders must be able to put on a show, to display energy and pay attention to others, regardless of how they may feel at the time” writes Jeffrey Pfeffer in ‘Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time‘
He continues: “In fact, being authentic is pretty much the opposite of what leaders must do. Leaders do not need to be true to themselves. Rather, leaders need to be true to what the situation and what those around them want and need from them. And often what others want and need is the reassurance that things will work out and the confidence that they are on the right track.”
It is true that I have found that the advice of being authentic as a leader is not always the best way to perform the role. On the other hand, sometimes being authentic allows a real connection with the people or the team, and that is also worthwhile. The issue here is to know when to be authentic and when to put on a show. And most of the time it is about putting on a show for the team.
I am always amazed at how difficult it can be for individuals and organizations to avoid the ‘sunk cost’ fallacy, with dramatic consequences.
Not that I would be immune to the phenomenon – I always tend to store too much stuff thinking that I might use it sometime.
Still in my consulting assignments, with an external eye, it is with despair that I observe people persist on doomed projects just because of the effort and expense that has been involved in the past. The technology can be inadequate or obsolete, the object broken beyond obvious repair, still they persist.
Overcoming the ‘sunk cost syndrome’ clearly requires to avoid any emotional attachment with the object or the project. It thus generally requires an external independent view that was not involved. It can be someone from somewhere else in the organization, or an external party.
At any rate, every investment on an existing tool and any cleanup of storage needs to be done with the sunk cost syndrome in mind. It is often cheaper and more convenient to buy new than try to fix an old stuff. Always get an external view of someone that was not involved to get out of the ‘sunk cost syndrome’.
Flaubert said it best: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” [h/t Austin Kleon]
Being creative and original in certain fields requires brain power, attention that can’t be used also for other activities. Therefore, the rest of the life of creative people is often boring. For example, they don’t change their type of clothes because they don’t want to think about it in the morning, and they often adhere to a very strict daily routine – often waking up early in the morning so as to be able to work without too much disturbance.
Hence, the behavior of people you meet is not necessarily correlated with creativity. And in fact the most hectic, stressed-out, busy people are probably not the most creative.
What part of your life do you keep boring so as to have space to be creative?
(original inspiration from Gapingvoid)