A Face to Face with Thrive – Part 1

For most of our 300,000-year existence as “modern” Homo Sapiens, we have lived in small groups where the most important group interactions took place through gestures and maybe some simple symbols.

With an explosion of language about 70,000 years ago, there was no information highway, just many scattered groups sitting around a campfire. In these settings the intonation and actions of the speakers were a major part of the message; the precursors of our bolds and italics were the volume, tonal, and prosody changes that the speaker used to tip the listeners to the important bits, what was nutritious, dangerous, or unique in the story they were telling.

In these types of settings, the listeners could be part of the story also, immediately adding to the story or contradicting the speaker, e.g. the animal I saw was a least twice the size of the one you saw!

As we moved from campfires to conference rooms, we changed a bit physically, but not as much as we sometimes think. If you put a Homo Sapien from 50,000 years ago in today’s clothes after a trip to the spa, they wouldn’t stand out in a crowd.

Just as we haven’t changed much physically, there are some very fundamental cognitive processes that are still very much as they were 50 millennia ago. And that is at the root of many of our problems today.

While we have updated our external environment to the state-of-the-art modern world we live in today, the enormous engine that is our subconscious can still drive us back to the times of the campfire. This leads us to be influenced by attributes that scientific knowledge tells us are mistakes.

These series of “mistakes” become disputes, recessions, and wars, in the worst case. In business we see lower profits, less engagement, and less joyful days. It is the opportunity of this century – the one that will provide the peace, prosperity, and societies of the next phase of our civilization.

In this series of blogs we learn how a collection of our most modern inventions have been put together to help us understand, from a scientifically valid perspective, what we can hope to control. Through behavior change aided not by technological “helpers” that track your packages, but through the institutional and policy changes we should make based on the new work in neuroscience and cognitive psychology.

The type of situation that leads to biases and poor decisions happen when emotional outlooks are driven to extreme positivity (think of the Dot-Com bubble) or negativity rules the minds of the decision makers (think of war, for example). This dominant, extreme, and irrational emotion becomes the zeitgeist of the time.

So it is Intellectual Humility that we discuss this important area of Cognitive Biases and the coping methodologies that might be farther from our reach than Mars currently. There is no doubt in our minds that there is a much greater promise for our society if we solve this “wicked” problem than if we work to escape it, as no matter we go, our minds and their biases will follow.

Thank you for reading and we hope to see you again next week for Part 2 of our exploration of the strangest place on earth.

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