A few days after Paris Terrorist attacks, I’m in the pub with some friends and colleagues and I’m in conversation with someone about the attacks. Her response was very much aligned to mine, a sense of: more love/ less aggression = good response to the situation. Control, vengeance, fear = long-term scary response to the situation. We were blown away by the bravery the courage and the solidarity we saw.
But it’s where the conversation went next that stuck with me and I’m still mulling on. It was when she said everyone on Facebook agreed. Her timeline on Facebook, her Twitter feed, her news alerts all pointed to the incredible, liberal, make-love-not-war sense that she already had. And I realised, mostly mine did too.
But of course that’s bollocks. Not everyone agreed. Not everyone responded as we would like. Other Facebook feeds were doubtless awash with a counter-narrative that would have made me terrified/ want to weep.
I’d already been writing about “living in a bubble” – where digital algorithms “helpfully” put stuff in front of me that I already want to see (I search for a sofa on a whim, suddenly my digital life is awash with adverts whispering “sofa, madam?”) Whilst this “service” can be amazing (I am a sucker for an Amazon recommendation) it takes away my need to think, to seek, to question. The part about whether I actually NEED a sofa – that really important part, the questioning of need part, doesn’t come into play.
And so very quickly it becomes easy to find myself living in a world I have constructed – a world made as I want to see it. A world made up of the things I like, or believe I need; a world made up of the people I want to hear from, the views I mostly concur with; a world without the inconvenient irritations of “stuff I disagree with or don’t need”.
And that’s nice.
It’s nice until I come up close and personal with a view that is counter to mine, a narrative that is disagreeable or offensive or scary. Then I find myself suddenly without words. My critical faculties are dulled. My responses are kind of weak and inadequate. Or blunt and aggressive. My instinct is to be snarky and smart-arsed, or not engage – to walk away, to turn over the TV channel, to move to my happy place….I go basic. Fight. Flight.
but how helpful is that? At no point am I developing my capacity to articulate a counter-view…ah… that’s not great.
A world constructed of our own view doesn’t encourage thinking about, accounting for or arguing against other opinions…. So the things that would indicate we have a high EQ -curiosity, empathy, tolerance – get squashed; or are at least under developed. When we bump into an alternative view, we don’t have the skills or the responses to deal with these effectively. We reject outright: That doesn’t fit with my world… RUN AWAY!!
At a basic level, if we want to work well together, our ability to think beyond our little bubbles and be curious about others is vital. Do we have learning strategies in our organisations that support critical thinking? Do our leadership courses reflect the need to deal with differing information, be curious about differing viewpoints, and understand some of the positive implications of “difference”?
In order to survive and thrive, I’d argue critical thinking has more value than many of the leadership/management models we throw out in courses.
In fact I’d argue it is the basis for change and without it, without acting on it, everything remains the same.
Think about the decision makers in organisations. If the above is true for your Board or your leaders, if all they get is the stuff that makes them happy, if they are unwilling to look at the inconvenient truths; if, in the face of diverse opinion, they respond by ignoring or becoming aggressive, where does that leave us? A bunch of folk talking AT each other. Whoever is noisiest or nastiest wins? Lots of little bubbles of thought, unconnected and merrily broadcasting their world view without challenge? Where’s the change or progression in that?
This is why I choose to work dialogically. To work the difference. To acknowledge the value of diversity of thought. To say the unpalatable constructively. To open up debate & new possibilities. To get to a place of understanding that is richer than a mono-view. It’s not lovely pleasant stuff at times – it can be damned uncomfortable to listen to something you don’t want to hear and so it requires some care and some kindness. It can be damned uncomfortable to disagree with someone – especially when all those lovely Contrary View muscles have been atrophied through lack-of-use.
There are some big scary narratives out there at the moment, socially, politically & organisationally. We need voices and actions that move us away from fear-mongering short-sighted narrow focussed guff. In times of intolerance and stuck systems, more than ever we need tolerance, open thinking and leaders who have the bravery and the articulation to tackle the tough stuff.
So I’d say: Step away from the bubble…See what is beyond…
and in the spirit of thinking critically, what would you say?