We have a natural or unconscious tendency to resist new or anything going against our perceptions and beliefs. Especially if there is a paradox involved. In fact, our attitudes and beliefs are the software programs driving us everyday on life’s journey. So it is easy to polarize, look at the two sides of the same coin and choose one side as the “right one” and stick to it. And it becomes our absolute truth. The higher the resistance from both sides, the greater chances for us to hold on ferociously to our “own truth” and begin the right vs wrong battle for the one and only sacred truth – our own of course!
Today more that ever we see a polarized world. And an increasing pressure to take a stand and choose a side. The more distant and extreme the different views are, the more we feel the pressure of “if you are not with us – or like us – then you are against us.”
This is the shape of a wary world and life, where we have to defend ourselves and our tribe of believers in order to survive. We are trying to feel safe by holding on to a false sense of predictability and certainty in a world that is far from being clear or linear.
Today, we have a new acronym to describe the world. We’ve moved from the acronym VUCA to BANI. Everyone knows the acronym VUCA. It has been around for almost four decades. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, and it was significantly shaped by the results of the Cold War. Afterwards it served as a great point of orientation in terms of agile and self-oriented approaches to working, thinking, and making sense of the world in general. However, the situation has substantially changed since the term was coined in the 1980s, and complexity for instance seems to have evolved into chaos (Stephan Grabmeier). BANI is the more recent acronym to describe our world. It stands for Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear and Incomprehensible. If something is brittle, it requires capacity and resilience. If we feel anxious, we need empathy and mindfulness. If something is non-linear, it calls for context and adaptivity. If something is incomprehensible, it demands transparency and intuition.
Therefore, we need a new framework to manage different views and opinions. Different “truths”. Disagreeing has become the norm. And there is nothing wrong about disagreeing. But if we are not open to learn “other truths”, we will continue to struggle in today’s world. “We agree to disagree.” Have you ever used it? I did. Not anymore. My willing intention today is to ask questions. Understand different views. Question my truths and have an open mind. Rethink. Reboot. Relearn. It also means to take an active stand to value the other side views enough to contest them. And there is nothing better in a discussion than to prove each other wrong.
With the rapid knowledge expansion of today, our formal education that used to be enough for our fully professional lives some decades ago, has a very short shelf life today. And visions for change, are more compelling when they include visions of continuity brought by updated knowledge.
Adam Grant in his book Think Again, describes the rethinking cycle. One that I am adopting more and more. It means that I am open to question my current understanding – doubt – and become curious about what information I am missing. That search leads me to new discoveries, which in turn maintain my humility by reinforcing how much I still have to learn – doubt. And the cycle goes on. On the second or third round, I have evolved, I have learned. This is the basis of the scientific thinking favouring humility over pride, doubt over certainty and curiosity over closure. Exactly what a BANI world needs.
The rethinking cycle, means having the courage to let go of the preacher, prosecutor or politician mind set as Adam Grant so brilliantly describes. The preacher deliver sermons to protect and promote his/her’s ideals. We get into this defensive mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy.
The prosecutor marshal’s arguments to prove them wrong and win the case. We enter this mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning.
We shift into the politician mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience: we campaign and lobby for approval of one of our constituents.
The risk is that we become so wrapped up in preaching that we are right, prosecuting others that are wrong, and politicking for support, that we don’t bother to rethink our own views.
What I challenge you to do now is to rethink your assumptions and beliefs about your most important truths. You can practice by questioning all my previous blog posts, quotes and affirmations. Get curious about any topic that I’ve mentioned that intrigued you. Practice the rethinking cycle and please prove me wrong. I will love to initiate a relearning discussion based on empathy, data, transparency and new information carried from a scientific mind set.
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