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What we believe

Posted by Philip Smith on 8 November 2017

Why do we believe what we believe and could this be dangerous? 


 As a starting point to this story I will defer to Mr. Tolstoy who said

"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."

Having just concluded a project, we conducted our usual internal project review. We know that many lessons can be learned from this exercise but only when we are paying attention. As always there were some valuable lessons, some new and some that we had simply forgotten.

During this project the main ongoing issue was poor communications, not between us and the client, but within the client team. We made it our business to help overcome this and managed very well at limiting the impact of their issues. This prompted a discussion on why this simple issue appears to be so hard to resolve. 

As I concluded the review I received a few response emails from friends and that took me back to the discussion we had just concluded.

Two days ago I received an invitation to a book launch by Ian Plimer, what some would call a climate skeptic. I figured this might be informative and interesting plus the venue is 5 min from my home. I forwarded the invite to a range of friends and received the responses I mentioned.

This is where it becomes interesting. Those who are faithful believers in man made climate change all declined, but not just declined, they also included some invective as to the nature of the author.

It is interesting that those with the firm convictions as to man's guilt, are not interested in an opportunity to ask questions of a knowledgeable person or the opportunity to test their own beliefs.

We are all familiar, to some extent, with the Climate change "debate". You might note the inverted commas around Debate, as I have as yet not encountered a debate.  A debate normally has at least two sides, in a court of law one would find the Prosecution and the Defense but when it comes to Climate change, there is only the prosecution and they are the only ones allowed to speak. 

The Climate "debate" is more politics than science and when there is a major climate gathering, such as the last one in Paris, only the "believers" are allowed inside. The others are kept at bay by the police and they are not invited. No debate is allowed or tolerated.   A bit like, One hand clapping.

This appears to be the new way that science is conducted when wrapped in a political movement where science becomes the pimp and the prostitute no matter what the subject might be.  http://tinyurl.com/jd6qvff

It would be reasonable to assume that when one has strongly held beliefs, one would maybe test them to ensure the validity of such beliefs and that brings me to my story.

Projects have a habit of failing and despite a clear understanding of some of the common reasons, somehow these failures continue. 

I mentioned the communications problems we encountered and it is a common failure, but why?

The climate issues become relevant again, as all communications happen between entities with different beliefs, knowledge and experience.  When we place a belief system as the main filter for communications we might be listening with our ears but with closed minds.

The biggest problem we had on our project was a senior manager who was convinced that he had the correct solution and no matter how many times we produced and tabled evidence that he was wrong, he would not back down from his position.

His belief became the filter and the facts we presented could simply not be accept as an alternative to his belief, his mind was firmly closed. 

He became like poison as he went around pushing his view onto junior staff to gain acceptance of his view. 

We got lucky as the problem manager became sick and by the time he came back, four weeks later, the company had replaced him with another manager and reassigned him to different project. 

It was good fortune not good management that saved the day. We had discussed the problem with senior managers who refused to address it in any way, other than to assure us that they had confidence in our ability  to deliver the project on time. 

A few lessons are clear and simple: 

  • Listen with your ears and an open mind. ( the mouth can also get in the way at times )
  • Do not inject your belief systems into any equation, unless you can articulate it, defend it and show why it is relevant. This cannot be done by sticking your fingers in your ears and going "lalalalalalala". ( politicians are prone to doing this ).
  • Senior management who will not act on internal management failures are dangerous and such companies should be avoided at all cost.


 > End




Philip SmithAuthor:Philip Smith
About: Philip specialises in getting projects and businesses that are not performing as well as expected, back on track.
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