Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Be careful who you follow

Be careful who you follow.

Good intentions are not enough.

Charisma is not enough.

Being nice is not enough.

Echo chambers and halls of mirrors may be comforting but we can get lost in self-deception and confirmation bias.

Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson write in their book Mistakes Were Made (but not by me):
"In normal circumstances," wrote Hitler's henchman Albert Speer in his memoirs, "people who turn their backs on reality are soon set straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them, which makes them aware they have lost credibility. In the Third Reich there were no such correctives, especially for those who belonged to the upper stratum. On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fantastical dream world which no longer bore any relationship to the grim outside world. In those mirrors I could see nothing but my own face reproduced many times. over." 
Given that everyone has some blind spots, our greatest hope of self-corrections lies in making sure we are not operating in a hall of mirrors, in which we see our distorted reflections of our desires and convictions. We need a few trusted naysayers in our lives, critics who are willing to puncture our protective bubble of self-justifications and yank us back to reality if we veer too far off. This is especially important for people in positions of power.
We all have the responsibility of thinking for ourselves -- however, the best leaders go out of their way to seek dissent and encourage lively debate because they know that mandating optimism and confusing collaboration for compliance can lead to awful conclusions.

See the picture.

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