Soldier or Scout?

One of the most profound statements made by any of our 70 speakers this year was from author and coach Kate Marshall, who, when addressing one of our Mastermind Groups in Tunbridge Wells last week, said:

“The moment you think you’re right, you close your mind.”

This reminded me of the excellent, and at just 11 minutes, even shorter than usual, talk by Julia Galef: “Why you’re right, even when you’re wrong” which appears to argue the opposite, and that’s the point. If you think you’re right then there’s a tendency to shut out anything that contradicts your belief and that limits thinking, ideas and third alternatives.

We’re going through a period of change that another of our speakers, Peter Fisk, describes as a “VUCA world” – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. To give you one example of this, it’s highly possible that several of my nieces and nephews will never take a driving test as driverless cars become the norm, and for certain none will learn how to map read. Just consider the implications of this one change. So, I’d like to suggest it’s time to think and act, as Julia Galef puts it, “like a Scout”: let me explain.

In her TED talk, Julia describes two different mindsets. The first she labels as “Soldier Mindset”, based on the concept of motivated reasoning, i.e. trying to make some ideas win and others lose based on your current beliefs. The second she calls the “Scout Mindset” and explains this as: “trying to get an accurate picture of reality, even when that’s unpleasant or inconvenient.” Her metaphor draws on the different mindsets of soldiers who are fighting and therefore thinking “in the moment” and Scouts, whose role is to establish the reality of the situation, surveying the landscape and the opportunities and potential pitfalls ahead and to consider all options and possibilities.

Julia’s talk concludes with this statement: “We need to learn how to feel proud rather than ashamed when we notice we might have been wrong about something. We need to learn how to feel intrigued instead of defensive when we encounter some information that contradicts our beliefs.” And then she asks, “What do you most yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?”

Right now there are many challenges to traditional thinking and beliefs such as disruptive technology, new business models (including those that don’t need to make profits on the same time table as yesteryear), cultural and political change of a scale not seen for 100 years or more. It strikes me that too many business owners are seeking to defend their position rather than embrace the new VUCA world and all its possibilities.

We’re announcing shortly our full 2018 programme which has, at its core, opportunities for business leaders and their senior teams to take time out from being soldiers and to become better scouts. Please get in touch if you’d like to see how, from just £47+VAT per month, you can access some of the best business brains in the world in addition to information, insight, ideas and inspiration to help make 2018 your best year yet.

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