My Pispective on Questioning the Boss

Belief Questions Truth

A pispective is when you write about something using only 314 words)

I just finished reading Daniel Gilbert's 1991 paper 'How Mental Systems Believe'. It gave me a lot to think about. One of the last notes I took was,

"People are credulous creatures who find it very easy to believe and very difficult to doubt. In fact, believing is so easy, and perhaps so inevitable, that it may be more like involuntary comprehension than it is like rational assessment."

Our cognition system follows our perception system. Because we believe what we see, we tend to believe what we hear and say. In the Age of Information this puts a lot of pressure on our tendency to reflect (or lack thereof).

'Credulity' means ease of belief or rash confidence. It has the same root as 'credo', which means to believe. To believe means to accept something as true. So Gilbert is suggesting that we are too quick to trust what people tell us is true.

This has been the case since forever. But for the management professional this poses a particular challenge. We are exposed to so much belief via our digital devices that it is less risky to assume that not all we believe is true.

Anyone who writes for a living sees a constant recutting and regurgitation of content across platforms. Tracking the movement of ideas through a community of professionals is hard but important work.

When big consultancy x says something that respected analyst y paraphrases and senior leader z repeats, we are presented with three layers of authority.

How many of us would question this? But it turns out this is the first thing we should do. No wonder social proof is such a problem for the management profession. If the boss accepts it, it must be true right? Actually, it is more likely to be the reverse.

If we do accept something as true, we should add the caveat 'for now'.