Tuesday, 30 April 2013


By Simphiwe Makapela

What if everything you've been thinking for the past 5 years has been wrong? Suppose we visited your cognitive website and found that the landing page to the stuff that's going on in your head reads, "Sorry, all mental files infected." Or worse than that: "Mental Operating System Disabled." What are you going to do? Of course, wouldn't this mean that you've been living off other people's opinions and ideas - and that every decision you've ever made was, in a way, made for you?

The phrase is 'Cognitive Bias.' The juice out of it simply suggests that it is a mental error that is consistent and predictable. A cognitive bias is the reason why your mom, when you're under pressure, knows what decision you'll make before you even make it. So, families are run under this conundrum. Relationships, financial decisions and perhaps, too, and most importantly, certain businesses are managed under it. Here's the thing; these biases in your brain stifle areas that could spot the flip side of the coin. How then do we get over these seemingly large walls in our heads? Thank you for asking.

Scenario: You are faced with a dilemma  Starring at you in the middle of your eyes, is a decision you have to make. What happens? Your mind, over an extended period of time, has been trained and prepared to dish out answers and solutions instantly. More often than not, these aren't Jamie-Oliver-cooked answers. So what's most likely to happen then? Wait. These solutions seem like answers. They look, feel and taste like solutions and answers. But ... What happens? One of two things happen: You either get more confused at the vast catalogue of half-cooked answers or - you select and implement the solution that hasn't much gravitas. That's why the word 'regret' was invented.

But isn't there more than what meets the eye? Certainly!

In his book, 'Thinking, Fast and Slow,' Daniel Kahneman wrote: "Our minds are simply not to be trusted. We ought to ask questions." "Fast thinking" in this context, is the same natural habit we call cognitive bias. According to Kahneman, it is easy. These are solutions and answers that come easy in your head while "Slow Thinking" is much of a herculean task. It takes time and effort. He then goes on to say that, "one key to engaging in "Slow thinking" is to constantly question the conclusions of our "fasting thinking" selves.
Turning the spotlight on questioning. Kids are an interesting case in point. They will always grab with both curious proverbial hands the opportunity to question whatever doesn't seem right in their precious little worlds. I have a very young nephew who thought I owed him an explanation for simply having four pillows on my bed. His question: "But, why do you have four pillows on your bed? Who are the other three people you sleep with?" (SHARE A BED, he meant)
The struggle for clarity is most likely to subside after the rise of questions crafted with precision.

The idea here, is to have a perception that the faster we arrive at a conclusion or solution of the business, relationship, or spiritual problem we're facing, there's a huge probability that our cognitive biases got us there and if we'll be swept off from our feet by those answers, we are more likely not to profit from them later on. If you stop and question your assumptions, it goes without saying that those that usually crumble like a wind-blown house of cards, were not really substantive in the first place.

If detectives get by with questions, innovators innovate through questioning the status quo, and kids grow through questioning, there's more to be gained through this precision questioning strategy. Matter of factly, Google's CEO once said, "we run this company on questions, not answers."

Questioning the good, the bad and the unquestionable pumps us up with a reasonable and healthy dose of skepticism about what's at face-value. My last sentiment: There are answers to most problems and confusions, only if we ask the right questions. 

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