How what we know holds us back

It might just be that what we know is holding us back. This doesn’t sound right, does it? The conventional wisdom is that the more you know the better off you are.


This is mostly true. What I am referring to is the part that falls outside of the mostly. Something that is an actual scientific confirmed human error called: “Confirmation bias”.

Confirmation bias is simply the name for us seeing what we believe to be true. More specifically, this bias drives us to seek information that is compatible with beliefs we currently hold. We will read a post on Facebook that confirms what we believe is true. We either never see or ignore those that tell us something different. This results in our knowledge about a certain subject to grow stronger.

This not a bad thing if you want to specialize in your field of choice. In fact, when I need a hip replacement, I want my friend, who is the leader in orthopedic hip replacements, to do the operation. There is nothing wrong with specialization. As long as we also acknowledge the danger of over-focusing on one subject alone.

Our brain is wired to pay attention to detail as well as be aware of the bigger picture. Specialization is the process of zooming in on only the detail part. The detail then becomes our world and we are mesmerized by the wonders and beauty of a single subject. Please enjoy this awe-inspiring experience. Just remember that there is a whole world outside that experience. Come to the surface and see the bigger picture as well.

The danger of only focusing on what you know is that the richness of life, the innovation, the solution of a persistent problem, waits for you in the field of what you do not know. Not keeping this door open while you focus on the detail, strengthens the confirmation bias and it is the bias that that holds us back. The problem with this bias is that it tends to infuse the person suffering from this bias with self-righteousness.

As we all know, self-righteous people are not very productive members of society. They usually are stuck in one place and struggle to change and adapt to an ever dynamic environment.

My invitation then for all of us to check and see if we are keeping ourselves back by suffering from what we know. Let us explore that what we do not know. Speak to those we disagree with in such a way that we have a better understanding of them and their point of view (Without necessary changing ours. Sometimes other peoples’ point of view is not that great).

Happy exploring



Move your boundaries

“I move boundaries” was the answer I had to give a stranger when he asked me what is a unique attribute I had.

Boundaries are important. Especially personal boundaries. They keep us safe. The keep relationships healthy. They help define us. But they also limit us and hold us back.

The challenge is to know when to keep your boundary in place and when to allow yourself or someone to step over it. Or you could move your boundary. Moving your boundary is something different than crossing it or not keeping it in place. To move your boundary is to expose yourself to an experience you have not have previously.

Stepping over a boundary implies that you can step back. That is to be assertive and keep the status quo. Not having a boundary or not keeping it in place is unhealthy. Moving your boundary is an internal stretch. It asks that you test your assumptions and replace ineffective assumptions with ones that are more in touch with  a new reality. One that includes the experience that you explored.

Kio Stark gives an inspiring talk on talking to strangers. It is good to be friendly, and it’s good to learn when not to be, but none of that means we have to be afraid.

She highlights the difference between perceptions and categories. Categories lead to bias. Perception is the use of  our senses to connect with the individual. When you connect with a stranger in this way, you move your boundary. “So, here it is. When you talk to strangers, you’re making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life and theirs.” Now you have an experience and a story to tell. You have moved your boundary.

How about it? Are you willing to explore? Tell  me how it played out for you.

Still exploring




Economics is for Everyone

In this powerful illustration economist Ha-Joon Chang explains why economics is for everyone.

It does ask that we start thinking about our current reality. I love the it that Chang asks us to look at the world through more than one of the 9 economic lenses available.

Just accepting the viewpoint given to us by the mainstream media keeps us where we are. But for our owns sake, we really need to start looking at our world differently, try to envision a new and better alternative and then take the first step towards this better alternative.

What this alternative could be, is still open in my mind and any contribution is welcome. Let me know what you think.



Use both hands

It is natural to use both hands if you have two hands. We often get by using one hand with simple tasks, but life gets complicated when you only have one hand and the task at hand asks for two.  Ever wondered why we have two?

We have two of most things and if we don’t it’s seen as a handicap or disability. It seems the world works better with two legs, two hands, two eyes etc. So I find it fascinating that we do not carry this paired competence into our thinking.

We tend to get stuck on one perspective at a time, while most things work in opposites – warm or cold, light or dark and good or bad. We tend to think something is either good for us or bad for us. This black or white thinking is not something new. It is just fascinating that so many people still think only in these single polarities. This while we all know there are a lot of grey between the black and white.

I recently watched an interesting TED video in which Linus Torvalds was interviewed. What a beautiful person. I am impressed with the level of comfort he had with himself and his generous choice for open source software.

For me the power moment in the video is when he says “I’m perfectly happy with all the people who are walking around and just staring at the clouds … but I’m looking at the ground, and I want to fix the pothole that’s right in front of me before I fall in.”

In my mind, this is powerful because it highlights our tendency to focus on one side at a time. We like visionary things. It speaks to what is possible and I am 100% for having a great vision. Yet, we need to fix the pothole in front of us as well. At the same time we cannot fixate on the potholes that we lose sight of where we are going.

We need to use both hands. Each one of us has the ability to have a vision, hold it and work on what to do today to fix the problem that birthed the vision in the first place.

Another interesting video by Knut Haanaes presents the tension between exploration and exploitation in BUsiness. And again he suggests we do both.

“So let me leave you with this. Whether you’re an explorer by nature or whether you tend to exploit what you already know, don’t forget: the beauty is in the balance. “ – Knut Haanaes

The Power of Getting out of the way.

This very interesting video from Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is always inspiring to watch. My take away today is that if you get out of the way, meaning, not telling them what to do (advising, ordering etc), but create a space for them to engage with a desired outcome, they perform better.

Do we see reality as it is?

For a long time now I have intuitively known that our external world is a reflection of our internal world. But i have never had a good scientific reasoning to back up this intuitive perception. That is until I saw this TED talk from Donald Hoffman. In a fascinating talk he explains a brilliant perspective based on his research. Have a look and let me know what you think.

“We’re inclined to think that perception is like a window on reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that this is an incorrect interpretation of our perceptions. Instead, reality is more like a 3D desktop that’s designed to hide the complexity of the real world and guide adaptive behavior. Space as you perceive it is your desktop. Physical objects are just the icons in that desktop.”