Friday, September 18, 2015

Kissing Babies

We have a natural limit on how much we can interact with the world. Unlike the Artificial Intelligence that is being developed to drive cars, we can only be aware of one thing at any specific moment. We can divide and shift our attention, but it still means we are moving from one thought to another. No two thoughts can exist at the exact same time. The reason learning to meditate is so powerful is because it is developing the ability not to jump from thought to thought. To still the mind and focus.

Extend this further and we end up having to develop the ability to communicate what we are doing. The most powerful person in the world can still only think of one thing at a time. They are completely reliant on the ability of others to communicate (and do) whatever else is going on. The problem becomes that, without trust, a lot of time ends up being spent on the communication part. Communication is ridiculously hard because it relies not only on the message but also on the context in which that message is received. We hear differently. We react differently. We interpret differently.

Rather than communicating, we may wish to choose someone we trust to represent us. This is true in terms of front line decisions and the 'employees bosses hire' and big picture decisions and the 'politicians voters hire'. Without trust, you can end up almost permanently on the campaign trail. We see it most obviously in the reality TV show that is the American election cycle with almost two years in every four dedicated to the communication (entertainment) part. Before we get too critical, there are two other places where we do exactly the same thing.

In the workplace, a huge amount of time is spent trying to communicate about what we are doing. You can't just diligently get on with your job unless you work in a role where outcomes are quantifiable, visible and regular. If you work in a job where subjective creativity, knowledge and personal interaction are involved it may be nearly impossible for anyone to understand what you are doing or the value you are adding without direct engagement. What ends up happening is people effectively have to 'look busy' or engage in other means of self promotion. If you aren't good at marketing yourself, how will you get the recognition you deserve?

The second example is in the home. In 'Thinking Fast & Slow', Daniel Kahneman talks about the phenomenon of household chores. Ask each family member how much they contribute as a percentage. It will add up to well more than 100%. Why? Because we are only aware of the chores we do. If you do the washing, pop it in the tumble dryer, iron it, fold it and put it in the cupboard - the house is wonderful and clean. In other words, it is not noticeable. Instead, Day 1: Wash and hang in the lounge. Day 2: iron and put in piles on the dining room table. Day 3: Pack into the cupboards. The second method is a much better political campaign.

Whether a politician, a colleague, or family member, we end up spending a lot of time dealing with the fact that we are limited to our own view of the world. Unless we build, earn, give and accept trust.
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