When someone would ask you, “Do you know what water is?”, you would answer “Yes”, maybe add, “Good old H two-O”. If you had a few science classes you might know that it can be a gas, a solid or a liquid, but would you know that there are now 15 other forms or states of water?

The form that water takes is entirely dependent on the external circumstances, such as heat, pressure and time.

For the last half century or so we thought we could predict all the ways a person might react in a situation if we asked them a few questions in which the answers told you their “personality”.

But the 1992 discovery of neurogenesis (the growth and development of nervous tissue) in adults showed us that we maintain plasticity throughout our lives. As a result, we can be very different people than we imagine, even different than we can imagine.

Like water, people change states under different kinds of heat, pressure or time considerations. Of course, we have far more than two elements to consider and more behaviors to be altered other than just physical form.

Plus we aren’t like water in the sense that identical conditions will not produce repeatable results. This is the price of being a complex, dynamical system, as opposed to a material ruled by Newtonian physics (mostly).

At Thrive we don’t think you are predictable, but we do think that you have mostly good intentions. 😉

But when we have to deal with a lot of external pressures that trigger any of a number of cognitive biases, our actions can be increasingly unpredictable.

The problem is the misapplication of a mental model for Situation A to Situation B, which may look the same at first take, but in the end reveal something quite different than expected.

The common cognitive biases we will be writing about in future blogs – Anchoring, Hyperbolic Discounting, Loss Aversion, Optimism Bias, Group Think, In/Out Grouping – are expensive and dangerous to us individuals and the organizations we belong to.

And while we made it this far pretending we have perfect logic, we need to be more intellectually honest if we hope to make it to the next level of human society.

Remember how I mentioned that water takes on more than just the 3 forms we’re familiar with? Check out this article from Wired if you’re curious and would like to learn more:

A Bizarre Form of Water May Exist All Over the Universe

Until next time – Onward!


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