I used to have a very black and white view of the world. I used to think things were right or wrong, and answers were either yes or no. Thankfully – and sometimes harshly – life has taught me that things are not always as simple as that.
The more I learn, the less I come to know. For me, there is a lot of complexity where there should be simplicity. And at times, a lot of simplicity where there needs to be complexity.
The problem I see is this: a cognitive bias towards energy conservation lies at the very heart of our decision-making systems and way of life. High speed journalism. Soundbite politics. One size fits all. A constant demand for oversimplification. You can see this problem manifesting all over the world.
When thinking, our brains consume a lot of energy – so, for energy conservation, they like to take shortcuts and make things much simpler and easier. We are hard-wired to do this, but often, it really doesn’t help us.
The very way our individual brains are wired prevents us from delivering the best solutions on the ground. This has implications for all of our systems – which are led, managed and operated by people who subconsciously short-cut. Hierarchical systems just can’t deliver for diverse individuals, because there is a tendency for us to think about complex problems in very simple terms.
Our countries and their processes are being run by people with a cognitive bias towards simplification – which means generalised solutions. The desire to simplify and create order means that it is impossible to serve the rich nuances of human needs. As we become more aware of all our possible options and our infinite choices, however, we are less satisfied with simplified solutions to problems and generic services to address them.
Fortunately, the emerging megatrend is towards the empowerment of individuals to solve their own problems, and technology is playing a part in this. For society to thrive, we have to deal with things without polarisation, and to account for each and every individual, with a spectrum of needs and desires. This allows for more freedom, and greater diversity.
I see this starting to happen everywhere, now. In Healthcare, there is an emerging megatrend of the patient becoming the CEO of their own health. Patients are becoming increasingly aware of their health situations, and are taking greater control of their health management and decisions. This will accelerate as more and more healthcare technologies come on line in the years ahead.
I look at the emerging paradigm in education, whereby kids are starting to take control of their own learning journeys. They, along with enlightened parents and educationalists, are beginning to realise that you don’t need to wait to start careers or businesses; you can learn by actually doing things that you are passionate about, rather than simply theorising in the classroom. This, again, will accelerate as virtual reality and artificial intelligence take off.
For me, solutions need to focus on empowering the individual to make their own choices and solve their own problems. The further away the decision maker is from that source, the harder it is to deliver effectively, because of their own cognitive bias towards simplicity and generalisation.
If you find yourself thinking in terms of right, wrong, black, white, yes, no, as I do – from my own experience, I know that you are missing out on the real richness of life. When scaled up, that fixed and narrow pattern of limiting thought can really impact on the way we are collectively living, instead of providing for a variety of needs and diverse choices.
We have to understand that by seeking to control from above, we are exposing ourselves to one of our greatest flaws. The key to the next stage of human evolution is to empower a new world from the bottom up, to allow for all shades and colours.
I, for one, can’t wait to see more of this happening.