Thinking About Change

filed under Cultural Change, Key Concepts & Conversations.

Innovation is born of new perspectives; of fertilizing one way of thinking with another. Organizationally this happens when different people, who have different information, come together and use what they know in new ways to serve common goals.  Individually this happens when each person understands, and goes beyond, the limits of their own thinking.

This is not easy to do.  One way to become aware of those limits is to interact with people who have different ideas and perceptions.  Books, films and classes may also help push on the boundaries. Becoming immersed in a different culture, when possible, is one of the best ways to open a window on assumptions and habitual thought patterns that can affect personal and organizational progress.

Habits of thinking can get us in trouble.  We rely on what social psychologist Daniel Kahneman metaphorically calls “fast thinking,” or System 1.  Fast thinking is that set of essentially effortless mental activities and processes that allows us to make quick decisions, do things on automatic pilot and conserve energy while generally functioning well – except for those errors in judgment to which fast thinking is prone.  Sometimes System 1 answers easier questions than what was asked.  It also draws on what is familiar or available, rather than what is logical or probable, and it can’t be turned off. Most System 1 errors happen routinely; we don’t experience fast thinking as conscious choice. We don’t even know the errors are there.

Fortunately, we also have the ability to stop and take stock.  Kahneman identified a second “thinking system” which he calls “slow thinking.”  Slow thinking, or System 2, is that complex set of activities and processes that do more complicated things – like complex math problems, parallel parking and reflective thought. Slow thinking encompasses many different operations. All of them take effort. This means that while we identify ourselves more with System 2 competencies, we don’t use System 2 unless we have to. Yet slow thinking can override the automatic responses of fast thinking. It can help us avoid serious mistakes.

Slow thinking is indispensable in an environment where the solutions you arrive at today could be irrelevant by the time you can implement them. It ensures successful innovation and informs more effective cultural change by helping us recognize and go beyond the limits of our own thinking.

Una nueva ventana Casa Mojanda, Otavalo

Una nueva ventana
Casa Mojanda, Otavalo

A Personal Application

I recently took a month to challenge my own habits of thinking; to reflect on language, culture, the business of diversity, the world we have entered and the planet we share. I’ve just returned from Ecuador. Viajé solo.

Ecuador is not just the Spanish-speaking country with the Galapagos claim to fame. It is a small nation with a turbulent history and great cultural, geographic and bio-diversity. Its political approach is also different. Ecuador has a surprising amount to teach about diversity, inclusion, equity and positive cultural change.  In coming posts, I will write more about this.

4 Responses to “Thinking About Change”

  1. Ray Krueger

    I’ve really noticed my life views shifting toward completion. The completion of my experience of life. Since Dec 31, 2012 when I helped my loyal dog, Jack, run to the rainbow bridge leaving his arthritis-racked body behind, and leave me alone again. He was my loyal pack-mate and insisted on riding in the minivan whenever I left home — until he couldn’t navigate into the vehicle. Then he wouldn’t volunteer to ride and I had to lift him into the back. Change.

    Today I learned that Roger Ebert, the film critic, finally passed from this life leaving his ravaged body behind. Tonight I noticed today is also the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. Change.

    This year we are celebrating the invention of the cell phone 40 years ago. Motorola was the big name back then. Not so much now. This year we are also celebrating the invention of the compact disc (CD) which is suffering waning demand as compressed MP3 music data is the popular download music media. Change.

    I’m noticing so many examples of life being empty and meaningless. And it’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless. I have rushed into the life voids to interject meaning that aren’t intrinsically meaningful. I am the creator of life that I live. Then life will absorb the emptiness as others rush in with their meaning.

    Given the emptiness and meaninglessness I see I the world, I am also aware that there is a higher level of consciousness disassociated from the empty and meaningless form and function of my physicality. As I struggle to reach the higher level, I am noticing peace, even bliss, as I avoid changing voids with my meanings. Changeless peace.

  2. Jody Alyn

    Deep thoughts. I read this quote of Roger Ebert’s yesterday: “I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter.” Slow thinking can also give us time for gratitude – giving thanks for the gifts of each precious day. Best wishes to you.

  3. adrienne

    Roy Kreuger’s thoughts have deeply touched as I am struggling with much of the same at this time. I am consumed with gratitude for the small things that make up each day. Each moment is precious and must not be wasted.

  4. Jody Alyn

    Thank you for taking time to read and comment, Adrienne.

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