Say no to Dogma and yes to Open Loop thinking

The German physicist Max Planck once said that Science progresses one funeral at a time. This was not a morbid observation, more a realisation that people hold on to their dogma so tightly that no progress can be made. This is Closed Loop thinking.

The more scientific method is to set up a hypothesis that can be tested and disproved, allowing it evolve and grow. This is Black Box or Open Loop thinking.

With closed loop thinking, smart people refuse to shift their opinion when new evidence presents itself. As more and more evidence stacks against their viewpoint, instead of softening their stance, they further entrench themselves using less and less believable scenarios. This is known as Cognitive Dissonance.

If trained scientists battle with Cognitive Dissonance, I have to assume the rest of us are even more likely to suffer from it.

The Dogma

A few years ago I was interviewed to work on a Lean intervention programme at a large insurance company. At the time a large segment of the Lean specialists working at a bank, which was at the forefront of Lean had been made redundant. When he asked why he should choose me instead of these more experience candidates, I think expected me to go with “I have insurance experience.” Instead, being candid, I went with, I’ve worked with these guys before, they are in my view too dogmatic. They let the theory get in the way of the desired result.

Similarly, I went to Heinrich for treatment for old sports injuries, he attacked me with cutting edge compression equipment and a vibrating drill (not the technical term), but also acupuncture, cupping and a shakti mat. No dogma, he just uses what works. Complementary, not alternative therapies. He doesn’t just stick to the 90s textbook, that didn’t cater 50hr a week desk jobs or week-end warriors, amateur sports men and women pushing themselves to extremes.

In my work as a productivity and change consultant, I’ve come to realise that everyone wants change, but it’s always someone else that needs changing. The solution may be a standard process is needed, as in, they need a standard process, our’s works, otherwise why would we do it this way?

Opening up to Open Loop Thinking

Closed Loop (in this context) is where failure does not lead to progress because information on errors gets misinterpreted or ignored.

Black box or Open Loop thinking is about a willingness and tenacity to investigate the lessons available when we fail. Systems and cultures that allow failures to be learnt from.

So, open yourself up to the fact that you could be wrong, in fact a better starting point is that you assume everything you know is wrong, assume it’s only the best you currently know, but will get better. If you are never wrong, you’ll never learn anything.

So many jobs and training give you a tool or toolset, what about a tool box. As Maslow observed, give a man a hammer and all he sees are nails. There is often a better way.

Solution Driven Thinking

I’d love to see a shift in thinking.

For examples, it is the job of a detective to find a suspect, the prosecutor to prosecute, the defense to defend and the judge to judge. That’s a lot of people. What if they rather spent their time figuring out what happened? – I don’t know if it will work, but when last was this questioned?  This legal system was set up before DNA, CCTV, Forensic Auditing.

I see it in politics as well. The leading party comes up with a plan, the opposition tells them how it’s nuts and will never work. I’d love to see one day the opposition stand up and say, well that sounds like a good idea, let’s do it and then they focus the rest of the day on figuring out how to implement it.

This has turned into a bit of an unapologetic rant. Until we snap out of this default assumption we are right, we’ll never be better. I want to be better. Striving for better, not perfect.

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