Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Understanding Matters

Day after day we are inundated with an unbelievable amount of 'information junk'. Opinions are raised and declared to be facts lacking even the most basic data substantiating their claims.
You see that in the press, in the news, in talk shows. It happens in meetings,
in conferences, and in seminars. People up on stage talking carelessly about matters they don't have the slightest clue of. Telling others what they should do or shouldn't do. What works and what doesn't. Only to be topped by brainless speculations untainted by any knowledge.
And they love arguing over their rubbish with others equally ignorant, incompetent participants. Desperate self-promoting D-celebrities ripe for the jungle camp. Busy with building their image. Whatever image. It doesn't matter. Their motto is “Get me out of here, I am a show star!”

Kim Kardashian distilled that to its very essence: tweeting a selfie of her bare ass is worth more than a thousand words, or a zillion clicks and likes. And maybe that's more entertaining than listening to the bullshit. More than it says about her though it speaks loud and clear about the the intellectual level of the audience.
And when a few people have a profound understanding of the subject matter others haven’t, that usually triggers aggression. They are accused of all sorts of things. For instance, if you make an effort to truly understand Russia and Mr. Putin, you are accused of approving what they do. A Putin pleaser. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Understanding the subject matter before making any kind of comments is what true leaders do.
Understanding has different meanings though:

  1. the knowledge and ability to judge a particular situation or subject
  2. an informal agreement
  3. a willingness to understand people's behavior and forgive them

It doesn’t mean that I like something someone else is doing or saying. Let alone approving it. It means that I get to know the ‘why’, the motives, behind someone’s actions.
Let’s stay for a moment with Russia and Mr. Putin’s actions. What is it that drives him? What’s the rationale? Is there any rationale at all? Why is he doing what he is doing? What are his motives? Who has influence over him? What’s the history? How do the other players fit in the picture? Those and many more are questions a leader must raise. That’s what provides the knowledge and ability to judge the situation. That's what gets you to a more realistic assessment of what they might be up to.
Or take the case of Greece. A new government armed with overly optimistic assumptions. Meaning well, for the benefit of doubt. Yet, under enormous pressure to 'win their case'. Desperately. And then they run into creditors tired of listening and poised to prevail with their position. And they too are under enormous pressure. A recipe for disaster to happen. Greece is broke. Period. Yet, instead of looking into the data, making sense of it and understand, they choose to be pissed off by ridiculous incidents. And they love the public stage and relentlessly giving interviews. Steadfast ignoring the problem. The Titanic is sinking and they choose to rearrange the deck chairs. Emotion goes up and intelligence goes down. And reason is nowhere to be seen.
The more data you know, the better your understanding can become. And ‘data’ also includes how people may feel about something and why. Many factors hidden deep in the psyche of a person have a strong influence over their actions. Only then can you commence with a thorough predictive analysis. Only then can you get an idea what they might be capable of doing.
Here’s is an example: think about the following characteristics of a person:
mentally strong, focused, concentrated, charismatic, charming. Quite congenial it seems. Now think about these characteristics: reckless, narcissistic, egoistic, no empathy. Rather not so likeable. Yet, both groups of characteristics (according to psychological studies) are the prominent properties of psychopaths.
Understanding matters. And for leaders even more. And in order to understand you must first know the data, the facts. Once you know get your critical thinking into gear. That includes understanding people’s behavior. Empathy expressly required. Once you come to a conclusion let it be challenged by those who also studied the case in depth. That, hopefully, would be your team you surrounded yourself with. A team of other critical thinkers not shy about challenging your findings.
Do that before you speak up and comment about the matter in question.
And if you happen to lead a meeting, a seminar, a conference, a talk show always remember that it is you, the host, who is in charge. Hence, do yourself and the audience a favor and stop the shameless self promoters. Even better: don’t invite them and let them waste your and the audience’s time.

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