Many different philosophies and methodologies are used to categorise and label people. From star signs to Myers Briggs profiles, these are just attempts at creating models of the world and therefore have both strengths and flaws. This idea was well illustrated by the statistician George Box, who famously said, “all models are wrong but some are useful”.
The ideas addressed in this Talking Point are no exception and in a similar way it too will have its flaws. But the intent is good – to embrace difference! The diversity model in this Talking Point should serve to help you let go of some unhelpful world views and level up as a leadership group.
The trick is to use world views as frameworks, rather than truths. If it’s useful, use it. Just don’t let it use you. This 'appropriate disrespect' demands that you hold on tight but also hold on ‘Zen-like', with an open palm.
“All models are wrong but some are useful”
The Evolved Mind Paradox
The idea that your world view could be flexible is possibly one of the hardest things to grasp. In my mind, it is the primary anchor that keeps us attached to who we have been and prevents us from going to the next level as leaders. Dr Bob Bays teaches in his identity factor course that the moment we realise we can choose our beliefs is the moment we begin to live a successful life.
What if, though, you are leading people with dramatically different world views to yours? Which is most definitely going to happen, needs to happen, is what leadership demands happens. If this happens it’s worth taking a moment and realising that a belief is simply a thought you continue to have. The sign of an evolved mind is the ability to handle contradiction, ambiguity and paradox. To entertain two opposing ideas at the same time is uncomfortable, discombobulating and counter-instinctive. It is, though, the key to growth and leadership.
It’s worth taking a moment and realising that a belief is simply a thought you continue to have.
When your ‘world view' defines your ‘self view’, the idea of entertaining a different point of view puts your very identity at risk. However, what you think of as your identity – the thing that you think is you – really isn’t. Our identification with caste, race, age, gender, nationality, birth order, star sign, theology or profession is hard-wired into us. It is literally who we are, in our mind at least. So the idea of entertaining difference and embracing diversity is biologically counterintuitive.
To put it simply, Diversity and Inclusion (DNI) increases competitive advantage. Groupthink, fixed mindsets and generational beliefs limit all you can be and all you can do. Consciously questioning and then going to work elevating the DNI agenda in and around your life, business and team is a key adaptation skill in the 21st century. To implement this model, there are a series of steps that must be taken.
We evolved to defend our way of life and to ‘tribe’ (as a verb), sharing a collective world view as a way of at first surviving and then thriving as communities. Like attracts like. But we are now beyond the survivalist ideas that birthed nationalism and fuelled world wars aren't we? Trump, XI Jinping and Putin still leave us to wonder.
Historian David Christian in his Big History Project, places humanities history in the wider context of the Universe's history. The Big History Project calls this idea of establishing world views as 'Threshold 6; Collective learning'. (Spend some time on the Big History Project site with kids, it is great stuff.)
Adopting World Views
It is efficient to adopt a certain belief to actually make your mind up, as long as you don't believe that any particular view is the way things are for everyone. It is normally not the case for at least one other person on the planet. The world is flat because we are the centre of the universe until we realise, “oh ok, it is actually a circle” (ok a sphere, sort of), that is circling the sun.
As humans, we are extraordinary meaning-making machines. It was part of our very evolution and our survival as a species to make sense of something by wrapping a narrative or world view around it. This ability enabled us to leapfrog over generations of biological evolution and to adapt to a changing world within centuries, then within generations and soon possibly within decades. The thing is though, our meanings are not the truth. They are simply useful.
The thing is though, our meanings are not the truth. They are simply useful.
Dogma is powerful because it creates a control dynamic that eliminates the need for self-reflection and self-regulation; systems take the guesswork out of living. The choices are made for you and this makes life easy. Follow the rules, work within the system and you will be all good.
The problem is, many of us are done with being controlled or told what to do. Our systems and institutions have failed us. They have lost our trust and yet most of them would tell us that we have just lost our faith. A clever and convenient meme; all you need to do is plant a seed of doubt and fear causes most to fall back into the fold. To be controlled.
When World Views Collide
There is one goal we are all searching for – freedom, yet it comes with enormous responsibility. Intolerance, such as that demonstrated by ISIL or the KKK, comes from clashes in ideology and world view. The fight to impose a world view on others and to control some part of the species through labels is historically evident. Nazis and Jews. Apartheid in South Africa. The Crusades. And on it goes… one world view claiming supremacy over another. It's horrifying when viewed historically. Create a world view, teach it to others, defend it aggressively and you get to control the masses.
For me, it comes down to a simple question; does operating within this framework liberate me or restrict me?
And yet in spite of the philosophical, theological and psychological inferences in this Talking Point and the NEXT level methodology I teach, it is not about the rightness or wrongness of any one world view over another. The idea of DNI is about you taking things up a notch, being the best version of yourself, as defined by yourself. So be fluid with world views, selecting and discarding them as they lose their usefulness. For me, it comes down to a simple question; does operating within this framework liberate me or restrict me? For as long as the framework works for you, keep working it. When you start having to work for it, maybe it’s time to let it go.
Fixed world views lack behavioural flexibility. That rigidity allows good people to let bad things happen, or for bad deeds to be swept under the table. At the very least, commercially it reduces agility. Fixed world views are not nimble enough to disrupt themselves, change their approach midstream and give up on ideas, products or services that are no longer relevant.