With disruptive changes the results we achieve depend on what we do.
What we do depends on how we see the world around us
So, how do we see the world?
It was Einstein who sometime expressed that what we perceive as reality is only an illusion, however, an admittedly very persistent one. Several decades later, neuroscientist Manfred Zimmermann provided the data to scientifically support this statement. From the results of his studies, Professor Zimmermann concluded that our capacity to perceive our environment is in the range of 11 million bits per second. Although this is a substantial volume of data, it is a very small amount compared to what is going on around us.
In his studies Professor Zimmermann did not limit himself to the analysis of information perceived, but, going one step further, he estimated that our attention span is reduced to a tiny fraction of all that is perceived and never exceeds 40 bits per second. These data are extremely significant because, on the one hand, they confirm that we perceive more than 10m bits every second without being aware of it.
On the other hand, these conclusions indicate that the brain, in some way, selects only information it considers relevant, discarding all the rest. In fact, all this confirms the process of creating an illusion that Einstein referred to.
The individual perspective has a key influence on the interpretation of everything we perceive. We build our knowledge on the basis of our beliefs.
Stablishing our paradigms
Our beliefs or paradigms will help us be more efficient in selecting only such information from our environment that we consider relevant for decision making, but, on the other hand, they will limit our capacity to understand the context to the extreme that we will be blind to those aspects that our beliefs classify as superfluous.
As a consequence, it is very difficult for us to react appropriately when thera are disruptives changes and we are faced with situations that question our most basic paradigms of action, as we currently are experiencing with COVID-19.
As a metaphor, let us imagine that each individual lives in a bubble delimited by his own beliefs. Everything that exists within this bubble determines the individual’s behavior, and everything that we perceive from outside must pass the following tests before being accepted:
1- Principle of consistency:
The information perceived is consistent both with internal beliefs and internal action paradigms.
2- Principle of validity:
The individual possesses tools or techniques to check the validity of the information perceived.
Strangely enough, these two aspects are applied sequentially, one after the other. Therefore, we rarely spend time verifying new ideas or information that are not consistent with our current paradigms. It is obvious that this approach is simply suitable to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
In times of disruptions like the one we are experiencing with the COVID-19 crisis, even knowledge that we might qualify as absolute truths can change abruptly, from one second to another.
The amount of new knowledge that is being generated ever faster will compel us to accelerate the learning cycle of new action paradigms.
That is why, both for individuals at a personal level and organizations at a collective level, new procedures are needed that force us to question, (in)validate and abandon our most entrenched paradigms if necessary.
To continue with the bubble model of beliefs, it is a question of permeating the shell that separates our bubble from reality, so that we can react in an agile way, unlearning and re-learning new action paradigms.
The process of (in)validating beliefs and paradigms requires a particular approach: unlike a process of generating new knowledge that can follow a logical and sequential method similar to how a computer works, the process of (in)validation of beliefs is non-linear and can bring about creative ideas that would rarely have come about in a linear process.
It is a process of experimentation that often leads us to ask the following questions so that we can decide how to proceed in order to achieve the objectives:
What is going on? Clarify the current situation
Why is this happening? Understand causal relationships
What should we do? Choose the way to go
What can we expect? Anticipate future effects
Bottom line, we can conclude that, in these times of disruptive change, for decision making it is more important to grasp its context as extensively as possible than to apply the knowledge and experience gained in past situations