Author Archives: Admin

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Honesty: Not such a Natural Orientation

Category : Miscellaneous

The current debate about Dhoni and our expectation that he should have told what he knew to the Hon Justice Mudgal Committee made me think. There is almost unanimity that any one of us would have told the truth, if we were put in a similar situation. One of the celebrated TV anchors was certain that she would have, had she been in a similar situation.

This takes me back to some 41 years. I was in my 7th standard. The charge: my use of abuse and also beating up a classmate during the lunch time. The two of us the aggressor, which is yours truly and the victim my class mate, were in our Head master’s room. After a stern dressing down and a lamentation on how I was unworthy of being a student of such a disciplined school, I was offered a fig leaf to confess and be dealt with leniently.

Until then I had not accepted or denied the charges. But with this offer I promptly confessed and expected that my headmaster will honour his promise. Much to my shock he immediately suspended me from the school and summoned my father, purportedly for as they used to say in those days, “Take the TC (Transfer certificate)”.

I safely got past the ire of the authority (as I have later many times in my life), and passed out of Avichi High School, as one of the school’s and my Head master’s favourite student, who brought many laurels to my school in sports and many other fields. Was I honest or did my honesty become easy, when the consequences were mitigated?

My proposition is: No one is honest in all contexts and at all times. Yet we all pretend to be honest irrespective of the consequences in all contexts and at all times. Why is that we all put up such a dishonest pretence, when we judge a fellow human being, especially when he finds himself on the horns of dilemma: Like Dhoni.

Let us start by asking when was the last time any one of us was honest with our spouse about issues which are material and significant. Is this not the most secure relationship for us to be honest not only about our deeds and thoughts but also our inner emotions all the time? Yet we worry about the consequences, which is breakdown in relationship; sometimes temporary and on rare occasions even permanent. Too big a price to pay! Let sleeping dogs be.

Take the case of democracies around the world and especially our own. We lament every day that not just dishonest but corrupt politicians monopolise the state power. May I ask how does this deep sense of honesty amongst millions permit them to vote repeatedly for these dishonest politicians? The elite amongst us will quickly say that it is the folly of the masses. We will justify our own voting as done under the duress of not having a choice of a clean and honest option. So logically then should we conclude that democracy is a political system of the dishonest? Or that the majority is dishonest or supports dishonesty, which the honest minority will suffer without any demur. A strange way to be honest, especially if honesty is such a non-negotiable value!

Who we vote for we do not have a choice, but do we also not have a choice on who we work for? Take the case of the many organisations and their owners/CEOs, who we know are not paragons of virtues. Yet millions do not say no to these organisations and go to work for them across the world. Where does our sense of honesty go, which we generously profess for others? Here again the elite will say that they do not work for some brands. Brilliant! But do they not patronise them by buying their products? Do we not have a choice here? Or does economics dictate our sense of support or otherwise of these brands?

Many of us knowingly buy spurious brands and pirated movies and software. Does every honest Indian stop at the traffic lights and wear a helmet or a seat belt? When the cop catches us why does our hand voluntarily go to our wallet or why do we let him know about our friendship with senior police officials? The rationalisation for our own dishonesty is that the dishonest and corrupt cop or the system forced our hand.

Whenever any member of an institution commits a misdemeanour or transgression and one of us is a witness and are called upon to testify, I have invariably found that we all are limited with the truth. Our defence is that we and our families will be targeted. So why is this logic not tenable for everyone who chooses to be silent or economical with truth when called to testify?

My personal experience is that even socially powerful people, who have no fear of any personal consequence, are circumspect and economical with truth, in order to protect the institutions they belong to or not wanting to get dragged into “avoidable” controversies. So dishonesty gets justified when it is to protect the survival or reputation of an institution, state, organisation or even one’s family.

I have repeatedly seen in families when horrendous offences are committed against women, the perpetrator(s) within the family is protected by this code of omerta. Honour and loyalty above honesty is often the motto. This is true with every institution.

Hand on heart let us admit our own responses to people who are honest in their engagement with us are not very encouraging. As long as this honest engagement does not disrupt our significant agenda in life or business, we are indulgent. The moment it becomes inconvenient to us or our institutions, our valuing of honesty gets nuanced. I am not being critical but merely highlighting that honesty is not an absolute value or is the default setting in all of us. Most presentations or propositions we make in important forums are nuanced positions; neither untrue nor completely true, even with numbers which are most amenable to be factual. The key is what we have withheld but will tell only when asked pointedly.

It is ironical that a lawyer is reminding Dhoni of his duty to tell the truth nothing but the truth. If lawyers were to strive only to propagate truth, but not find arguments to nuance it, then there will be no need for appeals to higher courts. Even justice is a nuanced position on what is the gleaned out truth. Such is the challenge with absolute honesty. Justice appears to be black or white only when delivered from the television studios. Much in the same way globally the profession of audit has its challenges. How material is the deviation for an auditor to pronounce transgression or a gap is always a dilemma; all the codes and norms notwithstanding.

We as human race have built into us survival and self- protective adaptations. Camouflage, bluff, deceit and opportunism are the adaptations we learnt the earliest, to protect ourselves and our kin from the ever prevalent danger around us. Honesty is the civilising adaptation, we developed in order to build trust with in a community and maintain social relationships. Hence honesty is a deliberate strategy used by humans along with deceit for survival and maintenance of social order.

To elevate it to being a noble character in itself is a social tactic, so that we all will periodically feel inspired to deploy it. In the absence of putting honesty on the pedestal, given the price for being honest, most will not even attempt it. One of the feedback, we give to people, who are honest in their social engagements without understanding the context is that they are not diplomatic. Society judges people who have honesty as their default setting as disruptive and abrupt. The social bluff is, be honest when we expect you to be and when it is convenient for all of us and at all other times be diplomatic; euphemism for dishonesty or should we say limited honesty.

My argument is not that matches or spots in matches can be fixed or the board president should deviously own a team. I am not arguing that under oath or otherwise we tell lies. I am not even arguing that no one ever is honest. My argument is that honesty which we all assume is the natural orientation of human beings is not all that a natural orientation. Like common sense it is not all that common.

When honesty is sought to be defined stridently in an absolute sense it will always be self-righteous and accusative. I am comfortable with a position where honesty is an ideal we all strive for but have the freedom to trip and fall once in a while. This will help us not to choose the other extreme, dishonesty. Any way we all know it within us that honesty is not our natural default orientation. It is a deliberate and discerned judgment we make. It has many shades and not black or white, as we would like to believe.

To start with an acknowledgement that being honest at all times, in all contexts and irrespective of the consequences, is an onerous proposition, will go a long way in helping people to choose honesty more often. Honesty becomes an attractive option in a secure, supportive, non-judgmental and forgiving environment (My head master knew this). In all other environments honesty even when chosen is burdensome. So instead of holding others responsible for honesty, I would focus on introspecting, whether I create an environment which makes it easy for others to be honest.

If honesty were to be so common and natural then stories of Harichandra (Lord Rama’s ancestor) or autobiographies such as “My experiments with truth” would not have been such exceptional works or inspirational.

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The Busby Way to Talent Management: The Phoenix Rises – Part 2

Category : Miscellaneous

Busby said “From the start, I had envisaged making my own players, having a kind of nursery so that they could be trained in the kind of pattern I was trying to create for Manchester United”. Busby now was restless. He wanted to pit his team against the best in Europe and not just win the English league. No English club had till then ventured out to Europe. The English Football Association was against English clubs participating in the European cup, where the top 2 or 3 clubs from every European country competed. But Busby wanted to pit his 22 year olds against Europe’s best, the likes of the great Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas of Real Madrid, Eusebio of Benifica, Johan Cruyff of Ajax, Gerd Muller and Franz Beckenbauer of Bayern Munich.

Busby’s philosophy was that if you played in your backyard alley and won, you counted for very little and you will not improve. He wanted his players to spread their wings, to go out and compete against the best teams away from home and test their abilities. The powerful people from the English Football Club were working overtime to spoil Busby’s plans. Busby took them on and once again prevailed. Manchester United became the first English football team to play in the European cup in 1956-57 season. They made very good progress and lost to Real Madrid in the semi- finals.

Busby said that now his boys knew that no one was invincible and that his boys had earned the right to be with the very best of Europe. They were on the road constantly seeking out and playing against the very best. Busby was one of the boys, always on the road with them and by the touch line, every match. He travelled with them by bus or rail.

Then the tragedy struck. In February 1958 they were returning home on a chartered flight from Belgrade, after playing Red Star club in the European cup match. Their plane crashed when taking off from the Munich airport. 21 people on board died. 7 players and 3 officials lost their lives. Busby was grievously injured. Duncan Edwards the rising global star died a few days later in the hospital. Roger Bryne the captain also lost his life. Tommy Taylor and David Pegg were gone. Bert Whalley the club’s coach also perished. Jimmy Murphy the assistant manager and the Busby confidant was luckily away on duty with his national team, Wales. A generation of players, officials and trainers were all gone in a moment. Busby was proclaimed dead twice, only to be revived during his 9 weeks fight in the hospital.

Barely 13 days after the crash, Jimmy Murphy and Bill Foulkes put together a team with 2 survivors from the original team and rest from the youth team, reserves and a few hasty sign ups. When Jimmy and Bill led the team out, the players asked them what they should play for: Jimmy told them – a win what else! True to the Busby spirit Manchester United played the match with tears rolling down their cheeks and won the FA cup match for Busby and their dead and injured colleagues. 49,000 spectators in the stadium and many more around England that day enrolled themselves into a cult: The Man U cult was born!

A few weeks later, before the FA cup semi-finals Busby sent them a recorded message from his hospital in Munich. His message was “Good to hear lads that we have reached semi-finals. Good luck and Play on”. The players felt that the boss was still with them, not on his hospital bed. United lost to Bolton in the finals. Bobby Charlton, one of the crash survivors remarked, “We lost, but it did not matter because a lot of people thought that the club will go out of existence. Not one of us. Busby will be back. We will build a new team and nothing has changed.”

Busby felt that he owed it to his beloved Babes to build another team, one which will complete the unfinished task of a European cup win and bringing the league title back. He was in a dilemma. How could he again build it with a generation of great players gone suddenly? Could he build a great team once more? He had to start all over again. Yet by 1960 he set out to do just that.

He now did not have time. The original philosophy of home grown, youth based talent had to wait. He first needed a team to play and one which can win. He decided to sign a few players: Only a few. He wanted players who had the skills, dynamism and an ability to build cohesiveness by pulling together the other players with budding ability. Dennis Law the striker from Torino Italy was that player. He added the stout-hearted mid fielder Paddy Crerand. Law Scored 29 goals in his first season and Man U won its first trophy in 1962-63 after the Munich tragedy. Law Scored 49 goals the next season.

Law stated “Matt Busby had built the 1958 side and he also had the 1948 side. He had built two great sides before and now it was the beginning of building a new great side. So I signed up for him”. Busby blended the big money talent quickly with Charlton, Foulkes, Giles and Herd. He dispatched off 2 veterans Viollet and Dawson during the off-season. Busby did not forget his youth programme. Out came George Best from the nursery. The grand Busby forward line, the fearsome attack machine was back again with 3 great forwards: Law, Charlton and Best. All three went on to win the European footballer of the year in the next few years. United won six trophies with the new dream team.

In 1968, a full 10 years after Munich, Manchester United won the European cup defeating Real Madrid in a heart stopper. True to his philosophy when United were 2 goals down in the half time during the second leg, Busby entered the dressing room and said “Lads, that’s not the Manchester United way, we do not defend and defend. Go out there and attack – no matter what happens.” Charlton recalled, “That took all the pressure out of us.”

This was his crowning glory: Manchester United had finally won the European cup; a dream he had chased for 24 years for the club, for the 1958 Babes — his lost generation, for the dream team of the 60s and finally for his two decades of relentless grooming and faith in one young talent after another.

Finally, Busby could retire now and he did in 1969.

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The Busby Way to Talent Management: The Making of “Busby’s Babes” – Part 1

Category : Miscellaneous

Manchester United Football club, a premier club today, in 1945 was languishing with only one league title in nearly 40 years. Its coffers were empty. It was saddled with a debt of 15,000 sterling pounds. Its stadium was bombed out, derelict and dilapidated.

It was under these circumstances that the club appointed an army physical training instructor Sgt. Matt Busby as its Manager. Busby immediately recruited Jimmy Murphy as his assistant.

Busby first hammered out with the directors of the club a deal, not to interfere with how he ran the team. This was a first for the football club tradition of that period. Managers and coaches were not the super stars which they are today. According to people who were privy to the inside story, they attributed Busby’s proximity to Mr. Louis Rocca as the reason for getting this authority. Rocca apart from being credited with the naming of the club in 1902 as Manchester United had grown on to become the “club’s fixer” — he was the man for all seasons. Rocca was instrumental in convincing Busby to come to Man U from Liverpool.

Busby first took stock of the talent that was at his disposal. His only purchase was Jimmy Delaney from the Celtic. He had realised from his days as a player that when players played outside their position of ability they struggled. Busby discovered his talent when he shifted to a “defending half back” from being an “attacking inside half.”

Busby restructured the playing positions of his team. His objective was to maximise the talent at his disposal. He shifted Johnny Carey (Captain) an “inside forward” to “right back” and crafted the famous forward line with Jim Delaney, Jack Rowley, Charlie Mitten and Stan Pearson. He then once again rearranged his forward line by shifting Chilton from “inside forward” to “centre forward” to play alongside Delaney and Rowley.

The result was that Manchester United finishing second in the league behind Liverpool, missing the title by just 2 points. The decades of languishing at the bottom of the table were over. Manchester United now was a title challenger. In the next 5 years Manchester United finished at a heart breaking number two for 4 years, and eventually won the title in the 1951-52 season. In the meanwhile the club won the FA cup in 1948 after 40 years.

During this period Busby put to practice his vision of nurturing the talent from within. His idea was to identify boys as young as 15 years from the schools and alleys all around, and nurture them. He then went on to recruit a group of assistants to help him gather a youth squad. He brought in Joe Armstrong as the scout because he found in him the talent for “establishing a lot of contacts, an appetite to travel around, an eye for locating ability in school boys and an ability to convince their parents”. Thus arose the Manchester United youth academy and the youth team. Bobby Charlton, the legend, states “I was aware of Manchester United because of Busby’s youth team which went on to become the famous Busby’s Babes and I am proud that I was one of them”.

Busby instilled in them a style of play, neither adopted nor practised in England during that time. He always encouraged them to play one touch and at best two touch football. He egged them on to stay on the attack. He wanted them to play a flowing football with a perpetual drive forward with the ball moving seamlessly from one to the other with a single touch. He placed a premium on character and loyalty to each other. He instilled in them that scoring goals mattered more than just moving the ball around. So he built his team around the forward line. He instilled an attitude that it was no shame to lose in the quest for a win.

By 1951, as his youth team was developing he started blooding players as young as 19 and 20 years into the senior team and was easing out the aging stars of the past 5 years. Jackie Blanchflower and Roger Bryne made their debut with the senior team in November 1951 and Delaney and Carey were out. In the 1952-53 season the sensational Duncan Edwards from the youth team made his debut at the age of 18 years. He went on to play for England by 1954. Bill Foulkes another youth team talent graduated to play for the seniors. He identified a rare talent from the second division Tommy Taylor and signed him up for Manchester United.

In 1952-53 Busby tried as many as 30 players in the first division. Manchester United slipped to number 8, a year after winning the league. Bobby Charlton made the grade to the senior team this year. This was the worst league standing in 7 seasons for the club. The season ending game saw Manchester United being thrashed by Middlesbrough 5-0. However the strategy of blooding the youth academy players was to pay rich dividends in a few years. In just 4 years, with players averaging just 22 years of age United brought the league title back to the club and retained it the next season as well. Finally “Busby’s Babes” as they were called were on top of the world.

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The Thinking Challenge: Trapped Inside with Only a Keyhole View to the World – Part 2

Category : Miscellaneous

In part 1, I had proposed that we are caught in a few thinking traps and fail to comprehend that we have at least 2 views to our world.

Analytical thinking is dealing with the world as it is: Comprehending reality.

Conceptual thinking is the world as it can be : Visualising the world with its myriad connects; both the apparent and the hazy.

In this part, I want to counterpose the consequences of overly being in the analytical mode and ignoring the conceptual faculty of our thinking (Click to tweet). Let us tease this proposition a little bit further and see what we come up with.

Obsession with the correct answer – The Winner’s way trap:

The computational power that has been made available to us, should have freed us from the drudgery of processing and ordering numbers into charts for meaning making. Large part of the meeting time is wasted in understanding these number arrangements. We facetiously call it trends and strategy. In many meetings disputing the numbers or its arrangement is an interesting game. So arriving at a shared reality (as things are) becomes the main objective in these meetings.

Assuming that the shared reality indeed is coalesced, now the priority shifts to our old high school obsession: So what is the correct answer? Thus we get into the math class: Finding the only correct way to solve the problem – The Answer.

How do we go about this? In the same way as our math teacher taught us. Look for the solved answers from a guide book or the senior’s work book. In the business world we call it the best practice or learning from the industry leader. The new guide books are sold by the top notch business tuition teachers: Consulting firms or the best practice publications which are available on sale.

This does not end here. At our school, we were told that copying is being dull witted or that only monkeys imitate. In business we are told that copying competition is smart. My argument is not that we should be oblivious to what competition is up to. It is more about, if I spot the same opportunity, threat and the means to deal with them, how can it create a competitive advantage? Unless, I out-execute this copied version, can I ever become the leader? Even if I do so, should I now not identify the different/new opportunities to be leveraged for holding the leadership?

Inability to integrate and synthesise – The one view and the only way trap:

Our ability to use data to generate discussion, which is thought exploration, is severely stunted. This is because seldom in a meeting, we distil and frame issues for discussion. We push for convergence too soon. We are worried that if we keep a discussion going, it might take us to where we do not want to go. We want all those assembled to confirm our thoughts and not challenge them. Any challenge, even worse any alternate proposition causes us serious distress. We see it as negation of us, disruption or dissent: A waste of time.

We struggle to tease out alternatives or different perspectives on the theme of discussion. I suppose it is because multiple perspectives will demand of us, the higher order thinking ability of integrating and synthesising what appears to be disparate ideas. This will require the ability to create new frameworks: Much like discovering in the destructive power of the atom the curing characteristic or for that matter discovering strength in carbon fibre or that metal can float and even fly. All these thoughts would have been absurd propositions when they were first made.

We often frame most issues in a bipolar way. Like religious leaders and political ideologues, the frame is: Good vs the Bad, Freedom vs Discipline, Broad vs Narrow focus, Short term vs Long term, Quality vs Quantity and many more.

We feel uncomfortable to deal with the world of perspectives. The renaissance masters rediscovered this in both thought and art. They freed the world from the dogma of religious bipolarity or the only truth as ordained by the supreme power.

Science embellished it during the last 4 centuries by demonstrating the power of abstract thought to create concrete use. The scientist showed us what synthesis between thoughts can achieve. The power of the atom was discovered by synthesising, Physics, Chemistry and Math. Our ability to nuance a thought, co-hold and forge a hybrid outcome, is often severely challenged by our pull to over-simplify or complicate most themes.

Two tables or charts never integrate or synthesise. It is solely the power of the human conceptualisation which does it. Even when the computer does it, it is always the integrative algorithm as conceptualised by the human thinking which makes it possible.

The Oxymoron of visualising only that which has proof!

While business is about leveraging risk, by finding frameworks which competition has not discovered, we all are averse to the risk of thinking beyond the already proven or the concrete known. Interestingly science and technology is all about leveraging the power of conceptualisation and then harnessing it with testing. Radar changed the course of World War II: It made the invisible visible. Steve Jobs connected intuition to electronics. James Watt found motive force in steam – Gas.

However in business when engaging with the market we inverse this combination: We want to discover the opportunity which is certain: Where data and not thought and visualisation takes us. We fail to realise that exploration always precedes testing or proof seeking and not the other way around. God is the only concept we are prepared to engage without a prior proof.

This affects our approach to decisions. Gillian Stamp, a thought leader from BIOSS, found that the ability to “Make” and not “Take” decisions separated higher order thinking and hence leadership ability. She categorised data hungry and data completeness oriented people as those who “Take” decisions. On the other hand she found entrepreneurial and trend defining leaders, first visualising a possibility and then putting just about enough data to broadly confirm the concept and committed resources ahead of others. She categorised these leaders as those who “Make decisions”. She found them to be change & scale hungry people and not certainty obsessed.

Ideation always precedes proof seeking. Ideation deals with abstraction. In the absence of a search for alternatives, choices and the unproven concepts, ideas will not materialise or will not be meaningful. True the signals are in the environment, but it is in a form which is not amenable to distilling data and arranging it as analytics will require. This is like an architect who first conceptualises the building and there after goes about doing all the calculations and tests.

The real germ of thought indeed is an imagination: an idea, a concept, a possibility. When analysis leads to insights and triggers conceptualisation of a possibility, then we enter the higher order thinking ability. Analysis sharpens the understanding of the already known. Conceptualisation reveals to us what is hidden behind the unknown and the undiscovered.

In Conclusion:

So in my book, those who get stuck with tables, charts and data arrangements, which leads to only analytical thinking and struggle to conceptualise or ideate are thinking challenged. The reasons could be anything from the absurd: attention deficiency, to the sublime: inability to take a thought risk. Only in the Orwellian world thinking and imagining is a crime.

God, we are told created the humans from dust. The human brain created the memory chip from grains of sand, in order to free itself from the drudgery of holding and processing data. If we still do not put the freed up brain to visualise the world as it can be, why even should be and shape it, surely our brain and hence thinking will atrophy.

P.S. Even hardware requires software updates periodically. I see most of us reading challenged. So where will our next operating and application software updates come from, if we struggle to hold attention to read 1000 words. Reading challenged becomes thinking challenged. Try writing 1200 words about any theme without charts and numbers to check your thinking robustness.

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The Thinking Challenge: The Trap We Willingly Walk Into – Part 1

Category : Miscellaneous

Over the last 30 years, having been part of many discussions and meetings at various levels and forums, I have often wondered about the quality of thinking in these discussions. The ones where I found it to be of high quality, it almost always had the following:

A well thought out proposition on the table.

Carefully distilled information (not the whole database) that helps to comprehend the proposition.

Arguments which support the proposition – not Bullets; Bullets are used to kill people and discussion.

Distilling out and framing of issues/themes for discussion.

Attentiveness, if not prior preparation by the participants.

Quality gate keeping, where the focus was on one issue at a time, instead of the discussion going all over the place.

Alternate propositions or ideas.

Challenging engagement on every proposition and alternatives to test and further develop them.

Integration and synthesis of the thoughts which had emerged.

Making a decision or choosing a direction or commitment of resources.

By the same token, in various meetings and discussions, I have questioned myself on how and why extremely intelligent people feel challenged to think.

In this article, I have offered a few hypotheses, on what these thinking challenges are and the traps into which most of us fall repeatedly.

The killer presentation:

When I participate in discussions, I find the thinking space shrinking. A group of people assemble together purportedly to collectively maximise their thinking power. However the meeting is quickly reduced to slide gazing and slide pushing. There are other times A3 and A4 sheets with rows and columns become the focus of attention.

The presenter is obsessed with moving the slides frenetically: Every presenter comes with 60 slides for a 30 minute time slot. Is it a wonder that no one else, save the chair can meaningfully get in a word, leave alone an observation/idea/view/suggestion?

The chair, pressurised for time, puts pressure on the presenter to finish the presentation. Then the charade which we witness in all conferences plays out in the meeting: Nervous breezing through the slides, followed by 5 minutes of checking around for top of the mind views or those with lung or position power muscling in with their pronouncements or directions.

The film show is over and for a brief moment eyes meet and hands reach for the mobile, only till the next show starts. If a 10 slide presentation did not warrant at least 2 to 3 issues framed well and put up for discussion and decision, why should so many assemble together? A rough thumb rule is any issue requires at least a 20 minutes discussion. If they are serious issues, 3 issues will demand an hour of discussion. In how many discussions/meetings have we experienced this?

Attention Deficiency:

Even when not in a meeting, when we are by ourselves, we have lost our quiet thoughtful reflection space. We are intruded by the cacophony from the television, music pumped directly into our ear drums (serious road accident risk notwithstanding), distractions from the notifications/alerts from our mobile devices, fear of missing an e-mail or SMS in real time and twitching fingers which crave for the cold screen touch.

A generation of humans are being afflicted by a new disease called “attention deficiency”. This disease makes us poor listeners. It affects our focus and concentration leading to poor grasp. It makes us switch off in the middle of a discussion and re-join when the mind recovers. This makes us irritable when the discussion prolongs. We want to be done with a quickie. This illness afflicts us in our bathroom, by the bed side, when driving, walking on the road, places of worship, hospital room and meeting rooms.

So is it a wonder that nowadays the space for thinking and hence discussion, is limited to the time, our minds are freed from its pre-occupation to compulsively satisfy our sound, sight and touch craving, demanded by our mobile life partner?

Processor in the hang mode:

Added to the attention deficiency is another illness. When in a meeting or a discussion, we frequently retract into our world and call this thinking. Little do we realise that speaking or listening does not qualify to be called thinking. We think when we process information (not data), discriminate, identify connections, make meanings, make propositions or test them, see alternatives, visualise possibilities, set out choices and decide. Listening is the in-port of the computer and speaking is the display screen. Neither is thinking.

There are those who believe that being quiet is being deep in thought. But their minds are not quiet. They are agreeing or rebutting in their minds to what is being stated by others. They do not feel energised to speak. The best they do is, seek a few clarifications or provide information when asked for. These people slowly drift away from the discussion on hand because they find it difficult over long periods to stay quietly engaged, especially when they get tired of listening to others and are reticent to articulate. The quality of thinking here is questionable. Because their thoughts seldom are offered for review by others, hence they have no clue on the power or usefulness of their thoughts. They almost never shape thinking or decisions. This at best is sterile thinking which creates literally no value for anyone. In fact most often they are quietly judgmental.

There are the others who cannot wait even a moment to jump in and articulate. They prejudge practically everything or cannot absorb anything until the load on their mind is poured out. They are constantly in a debate mode: For or against. Consequently they absorb very little. Hence the speech part of the brain is more active than the thought processing part. They lose interest when they are not actively engaged and drift away only to wake up and rejoin and interject abruptly. Here again the value created frequently is suspect. A volley of words and noise, but very little thought. They often end up being thinking disrupters for others. You will see these people are incapable of articulating anything in a logical string of points. They most often lose the thread and struggle to string together the points into a logical proposition.

In both the cases, we will very rarely hear any proposition or constructive challenge. Instead the mind is constantly in an input or output mode. They also get caught in the tyranny of agreement and disagreement. The mind is in information storage or retrieval mode and not in processing mode. In this mode the mind is incapable of critical acclaim. It is neither analytical, because of poor information processing nor is it capable of conceptualisation, because it is not making the connections.

Stuck in the mire of Data – The Availability bias:

The new world of analytics driven by computational power anchors us to data. It imprisons us to the only view that analytics show us. To an already attention deficient and presentation tools addicted people, data obsession makes them thinking challenged. You might ask, does data not help us think; it does, provided we use it as a launch pad for thinking and not as incontrovertible facts or means to make decisions.

Analysis or arrangement of data directs us towards engaging and comprehending the world through: The ‘as is’ lens. It is the reality as gleaned out from disaggregation. It helps diagnosis, rarely leads us to solutions. It makes us restless, with the reflection based perception of the world. It struggles to see disparate connections since synthesising is not its wont. This is like a photograph.

If the computational rules do not see two sets of data relatable, it will not attempt synthesising. This ready-made fast food numbs and dulls our thinking faculty called conceptualisation: The lens which helps us see ‘as things can be’. This is like finding a form in a marble, as Michelangelo would have.

In simple words when applied to our discussions, data and analytical thinking roots us to where data takes us and no further. It is consumed by a compulsion to root everything into, what data reads as reality or realistic. This is called by Daniel Kahneman in his book, “Thinking fast and slow”, as the “Availability bias”. So proof or confirmation with the stored database is what this thinking limits us to. It largely focuses our thoughts and vision to very short time frames.

When in this mode driven by the obsession for concreteness and correctness, it thwarts exploration or any abstraction of thought. In other words this mode is the enemy of looking for possibilities or anything outside the box. The data obsession constantly pushes us inside the box.

The outside the box world does not have reliable data and hence appears dangerous and full of gaps. It generates the same fear that ancient mariners had about the open uncharted oceans or those who went into the jungles and had to do the back breaking work of clearing it and making it habitable and arable.

In Conclusion:

A mind caught in attention deficiency, pre-occupied in one mode, absorbing or speaking and fooled by availability bias, feels challenged to venture out, explore, experiment and envision the future. It is a trap we set for ourselves. We become comfortable with it. Our thinking becomes constricted. Eventually our thinking atrophies.