A re-take of a picture Conor and I took four years ago, titled ‘Immigrant’s Son’. Mike Beiser photo credit
I’ve been hammering away on a longer piece about the creeping effects and feedback loops in Authoritarian societies, which we certainly seem to be drifting towards as the New Year approaches. It’s almost done, but I was out for a cross-country ski this morning, and thought about how I would advise people to consider issues, and the decisions they make, in the New Year. I’ve settled on an acronym, DDDVRP — or Triple D-V-R-P. The idea is that as much as possible, we’d like to make scaffolded and supported decisions as we roll into the New Year. Our v-Meme Knowledge Structures (which coincidentally has the first version of the photo above!) point the way on how to do this. Our goal with any decision-making process is to do our best to minimize metacognitive uncertainty, by inventorying what we know, and then comparing it to what others know in our larger social network, and then actively reflecting on this, as well as giving our own deeper intuitive processes some potential for emergence. We know stuff we don’t know we know. And our understandings are almost always incomplete. And while humility is in order, it’s important to know we CAN make good decisions.
So here goes!
- D — Determine a decision/change needs to be made, and start the change process in our own minds. This might come as part of a quarterly meeting, a change in circumstance, or the emergence of something from deep in your own mind.
- D — Data – collect as much data as we can from past experience, larger available data sets, experiments we’ve run, or are going to run (a la Lean/Agile perturbations and such) and so on. Understanding hard numbers is almost always useful as well, because it so often forces us to confront our belief structures that are too often oh-so-deep in our brains. The best example that pops into my mind from my recent weight-loss journey might be “Think you can lose weight by exercise?” The data simply doesn’t support it. That’s the gift that data gives. The start to challenging your assumptions and ingrained mental models. And finally, the famous quote from one of my heroes, W. Edwards Deming. “In God we trust. All others must bring data.”
- D — Dynamic – can we identify cause-and-effect relationships inside the data that show information is not merely correlated, but causal? Here’s where Peter Senge’s notions of mental models and more conventional understandings of systems thinking come into play. Seeing two trends line up side-by-side might give us pause. Having a causal mechanism, based on some principle extant in the physical world, whereby one is plausibly linked to another is even better.
- V — Validation is so important. What this means is mapping our understanding of the problem to others’ understandings and perceptions, as well as the larger real world. Here, developed empathy becomes key. Why do others think the way they do? What experiences undergird why they think the way they do? What’s the scaffolding look like for their decision-making process? How can you either steal a page from their playbook, or appropriately discount their opinion? How can you synergize others’ perspectives into your own process? How many valid solutions, from others’ different decision making heuristics, can you come up with?
- R — Reflection. So important. Why do we think the way we do? What cognitive biases and flaws in our own thinking do we have? What are areas we know nothing about that are not included in our own personal calculus? How does earlier trauma affect the course we steer for others and ourselves? What’s our own confirmation bias in the situation? A perfect reason for a long bike ride — or cross-country ski, run or other contemplative cycling of your thoughts.
- P — Pull the trigger. All good decision-makers make decisions. Pull the trigger and make the decision. Always good to put into place post-decision monitoring, so you can watch, in an engaged way, how the decision plays out within yourself, your engaged publics, and the broader world. But in the end — you have to Pull the Trigger!
Triple D VRP!
And for those that want, you can go back and see how this maps in with the v-Memes. Every time you make a decision, you’re working on your own brain evolution!
Postscript: Friend and Big Data scientist/mathematician, Kevin Vixie, wrote this nice piece which basically says the same thing, in perhaps a more emotionally approachable lexicon. Recommended.