Saturday, January 28

A new way of thinking: go off the rails every now and then?

How do you feel when someone tries to label you? Do you feel limited, judged, perhaps even excluded or, on the contrary, understood in all its complexity and nuances?

This seeing the world in black and white, in extreme simplifications, is today a common practice. Quickly and superficially we label categories of people; old, millennial, immigrant, reducing complex stories to generalizations. This attitude derives from the habit of creating mental maps that order reality, showing what differentiates us.

It is a way of proceeding that gives us a perception of comfort and certainty in a context that is increasingly ambiguous and uncertain. But labels actually limit us, perpetuate assumptions, and make our way of thinking obsolete.

Finally, they feed an easy temptation that today can lead us to errors and failures: interpreting new phenomena and trends with old categories. The certainty of our categories can obscure the clarity with which we need to relate to complexity.

First of all, what we need today is a new mental ability; order reality based on differences. We have to do it by detecting connections.

Futurist Bob Johnsen speaks of full-spectrum thinking, which is the ability to detect patterns and take into account multiple perspectives, cross-ideas, far beyond what categories allow. Speaking of education, business guru Peter Drucker recommended encouraging “people to go off the rails once in a while.”

This capacity for full-spectrum thinking will be what in the age of permanent crises will allow us to prosper in business and feel wholeness in our lives. People with this capacity will be the ones who will be able to successfully lead companies and departments.

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Ultimately, it will be technology that will help to increasingly shape this type of mindset. Bob Johnsen, for example, emphasizes the role that video games and augmented reality are going to play, which allow experimenting and connecting at the same time with various worlds and situations, acquiring higher levels of mental agility.

This flexibility will be an increasingly valued skill in a reality where relationships and knowledge will be defined by blockchain technology, which stores information in a distributed manner and prevents a centralized authority from being the owner of the knowledge.

Technology will always facilitate the decentralization, and even marginalization, of centralized authorities. Hence, it will be increasingly difficult to manipulate the truth. To innovate today, then, we need to move from seeing the world through differences and instead finding more and more connections and patterns that allow us to anticipate the times to come and the solutions.

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