We’re always so preoccupied with how dangerous the world is around us– often vastly overestimating the odds of murder, terrorost attacks and the like, but in his latest 800-ebook-page heavyweight, author Stephen Pinker (professor of psychology in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT) tells us violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’s existence. Now, what I love about this is Pinker takes an assumption and blows it up with detailed analysis. It’s not so much the result that I envy, but his approach. He lays it out this way:
The Five Major Historical Forces for Peace:
The Leviathan (the state; reigns in internal violence)
Gentle Commerce (economic incentives for cooperation)
Feminization (empowerment of women; men are naturally more violent)
The Expanding Circle (empathy; sympathizing with ever wider classes)
The Escalator of Reason (rationality; application of empathy)
Our work as strategists requires us to take rather complicated behavioral transitions and make sense of them, and what Pinker does best is provide a strong foundation and a clear and logical step-by-step analysis. He may be right, he may be wrong. But that doesn’t matter. What I look for is how persuasive he can be. That’s the mark of a great writer and thinker.And in light of the current Global situation with Iran, Pinker’s thinking on what prompts nations to attack one-another (cost/benefit equations) has never been more relevant. It’s clear that we exist within a delicate balance of Peace and one small random act or chance taken can upset the status-quo, but for now violence is less pervasive than it has ever been — just be sure to make the right decision when the time comes (or be very, very persuasive yourself).
James Surowiecki loves talking about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. But most recently, I’ve been intrigued with Elevator Group Think and the psychology of conformity. This is all too relevant for Strategists, because we spend much of our time listening to groups think aloud — much too much. I’m not advocating becoming a Google Planner, but there has to be a better way out there. What is Elevator Group Think? It refers to a series of experiments known today as the Asch conformity experiments. Basically, an elevator is a microcosm showing how we act and conform to others in the real world. Just watch this video. But Surowiecki to the rescue. He reminds us (in The Wisdom of Crowds) this experiment went on to reveal something equally important — that while people slip into conformity with striking ease, it also doesn’t take much to get them to snap out of it. But that’s the rub — how do we snap them out?
Tell me this quote doesn’t sound like it could be a Planner talking?
You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?
I’m constantly getting questions about how to break into Strategic Planning, and honestly answering this is more difficult than responding to my 3-year-old son when he asks ‘Where does hair come from?’ The point being, there is no clear rhyme or reason, which is a beautiful thing. But we can sometimes get caught up in this mystery. A recent blog post by Rob Campbell, Asia regional head of planning for Wieden + Kennedy, caught my attention. Rob writes: ‘planners – love to make a big deal out of being curious…Let’s be honest, curiosity is a basic human trait and even if planners execute this more than the majority [which I'd say is open to debate] they’re no where near as curious as people in the finance, technology, R&D or criminal investigation industries, to name a few.” Rob is spot on. All too often we set up Planning as some form of creative Black Magic. Something that can’t be described or discussed –The first rule of Planning is: You do not talk about Planning. The second rule of Planning is: You do not talk about Planning. We Planners have no magic powers (other than being loquacious and absurdly profound at times). In fact, quite the opposite, we are ‘liberators’ as Rob succinctly writes. It is our role to help liberate our client business. Now, rather than being seen as the mysterious agency people who lurk in the background, Planners are the ones who release the hounds! There is something tangible here. But alas, how does this help us in regards to breaking into Planning. Well, we don’t need to frame it up as a special club only for the curious few — but we can introduce it as a club for those who truly want ‘to understand and represent our client audience.’
So, my advice?…Go to your cave and find your power animal.
MIT Media Lab researchers have developed a mobile-phone application that, coupled with a small plastic device held over the screen, can determine users’ eyeglass prescriptions. Now, that’s a useful app. Seems we are moving away from the world of pointless but fun apps to a utilitarian approach. Called NETRA or near-eye tool for refractive assessment, the system asks users to align lines on the phone’s screen while looking through a small plastic cube. Now only if insurance would cover this…
Do you know your brain doesn’t know what it is doing most of the time? Well, of course not, because we’re talking about your brain, so how could you “know” this? This visual study guide by the Royal Society of Account Planning is very cool. We all have psychological tendencies that cause the human brain to draw incorrect conclusions. And when working as a cultural anthropologist, this is key to remember. It can be very difficult for people to describe their choices — that’s why observation and perceptual reorganization are so important…