Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Seeing through it all

The word perspective is derived from the Latin word perspecire - to see through.

Today's meaning has morphed, as so many words have, from the original use or intent.  We do not so much look to see through things any more; we are more apt to see past them, or dismiss them outright.

Perspective, whether in business, life or art, is critically important to making good decisions.  Our individual views of events, intent, and values (to name just a few) are radically different from one another; yet we often don't stop to consider a frame of reference not our own.  This myopia often leads to an erroneous view of the world, or worse.

In his new book on the brain and its workings, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman describes the workings of our brains as two systems (named, appropriately, System One and System Two.)  System One is fast, sub-conscious and primitive; System Two is rational, methodical and conscious.   You can read more here

System One is our instinct, or gut.  How many of us rely on our "gut" in making decisions? According to Kahneman, System One is also very, very error prone.  But System Two -- our thinking brain -- also has its faults:  it's lazy and an energy hog.  So yes, thinking is hard, hungry work!!!

But in order to make good decisions, the two systems need to be engaged: we can not rely one one system of thought alone.  As the Latins knew a couple of millennia back: we need more than one perspective to see through the biases and illusions that we all carry but seldom recognize.

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