3 Questions to Blind Spotting Future Salon presenter Peter Marks
- HI Futurists,
As a little tease for the audience we like to ask the Future Salon speaker three questions beforehand. Further down are Peter Marks' answers. Great answers, can't wait for his talk. Please join us on Wednesday the 30th of June RSVP http://bit.ly/9Bny5B.
1)What was the biggest blind spot that you overcame yourself.
One thing I've become more aware of is how the "confirmation bias" affects me. Most of us, myself included, are confident in our own beliefs. When challenged, we start looking (only) for evidence that supports our opinion. Early in school and in my career, my knee-jerk reaction was to bury contrary opinions in an avalanche of facts.
An example of how the confirmation bias plays out, many conservatives will dismiss liberal news sources and watch only, say, Fox News. Similarly, liberals will avoid Fox, and listen only to sources that confirm their beliefs. Confirmation biases affect everything from science to business decisions to decisions to go to war (with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a recent example).
If we're after the truth, we want to look as hard for disconfirming evidence as confirming evidence. These days, I try to be slower in coming to conclusions; first looking for contrary evidence.In many cases, the result is a greater tolerance for ambiguity.
All that said, there comes a time when we have to decide and move forward with action. Weighing both the disconfirming and confirming evidence gives us a better chance of making the right decision when the time for action comes.
2)What blind spot would make the biggest difference to us if we would be aware of it?
It's probably the extension of our innate territoriality to territories of belief. This often leads to irrational escalation of conflict. As with many other animals, we're wired to defend our territories. Home territories are where we find sustenance and protect our kin. Over the millennia, we've evolved many biases to give us a "home field advantage."
Today, the notion of defending a physical territory has extended to "territories" of belief and culture. The functional silos in most medium size and larger organizations are a mild form of this territoriality. A more extreme example would be fundamentalist Muslims living in Europe, seeking to kill a cartoonist who makes an image of their god. A clash of beliefs escalates to become a matter of life and death.
The tricky issues are where our beliefs are strongly held but there are no good sources of evidence for confirmation or disconfirmation. Sometimes these are matters heavily influenced by chance (who will win next year's Super Bowl?) or lack of information (how should we respond to climate change?). In those cases, the truth is gradually revealed. However, very often the conflict is over matters of faith.
Matters of conflicting faiths are hard to resolve, because mutually acceptable evidence simply doesn't exist. For example, no one proposes the GPS coordinates of their god and then looks for confirmation. The most fervent believers are more likely to embark on wars of aggression and submission to "prove" their point.
So, I'd suggest that "blind faith" and its close relative "blind obedience" are two of our blind spots with the greatest consequences. I'd add, that the cost of conflict has now risen to a point (e.g. nuclear holocaust) that we really need to find other approaches for resolving conflicts of faith and culture.
3) What is the best tool to find out own blind spots?
What's intended by "Blind Spotting" is a better understanding of the perceptual and cognitive biases that shape our decisions. To date, I've documented about 150 of these biases and found ten fundamental processes responsible for most of them. We'll cover the ten in the talk.
The first point that should be made is that each of these biases evolved because it had adaptive value for example it helped us survive in a primitive world of fight or flight decisions. Our reliance upon subconscious processing, intuition, hunches, and heuristics is usually a good thing. At the same time, the kinds of threats, problems, and opportunities we face today are often different from those we faced 35,000+ years ago (when most of our cognitive hardware evolved). Knowing when to make the extra effort to be consciously aware of our biases is as important as compensating for them.
To answer the question what's the best tool? I'd say that fully understanding the ten major sources of bias is a strong first step. For each of the ten there are a handful of useful strategies to get a better sense of the world as it truly is or is likely to become.
Peter Marks is Managing Director of Design Insight, in Santa Cruz, CA. Marks has published more than 80 articles, 200 benchmark studies, three books, and several films covering various aspects of new product and process development. His book, Aligning Technology for Best Business Results, has been widely praised and translated to German, French, and Japanese. It was the first to discuss business and technology alignment. A second book on Winning Products (understanding the psychology of customer buying decisions) was sponsored by IBM and made part of their internal best practices (the Customer $APPEALS methodology).
Prior to founding Design Insight, Marks' experience included teaching (visual perception, biomedical instrumentation) industrial research (machining technology), automotive manufacturing (as a Ford Motor Co. manufacturing engineering manager), publishing (an award-winning developer of technical education programs) and a senior executive at two computer-aided engineering companies (one now part of Siemens). He founded Design Insight in 1988.
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See you all there, Mark.