Multidimensional models of thinking

This week I thought I could try something new. The past posts heavily revolved around what I had been reading in the following week and then it culminated into an attempt of how I resonated with those learnings. So this week I thought I would end up summarizing my learnings from a few of the many amazing podcasts that I have been listening to in the past couple months. At the top of my list is ‘Not Overthinking’ by Ali and Taimur Abdaal along with ‘The Knowledge Project’ by Shane Parrish. The post deals with three podcasts in particular which were really insightful to listen to.

40 Concepts for Understanding the world (Not Overthinking)

This particular podcast was built on twitter thread by @G_S_Bhogal’s “40 powerful concepts for understanding the world”. I resonated with some of the mental models pretty strongly and tried to highlight the best of 1 hour long podcast.

Causal Reductionism: This is something that most of us find ourselves doing while trying to comprehend any situation. Narrative fallacy helps in understanding this process of thinking. It basically means our lack of ability to comprehend the randomness of an event and not necessarily everything that happens has a cause and effect relationship. We cannot take into account the multi-dimensionality of an event when something happens because of the complexity that it holds. We often tend to look at all events through our box of thinking. We find solace in knowing that something really good and something really horrendous both have their methods of achieving and attribute a very slight percentage of luck to the entire event. Most of the discoveries and inventions that happen are never done with the imaginations of the effect that it might have. Amazon never planned on earning the most through its cloud computing services or Google didn’t plan to revolutionise the way we acquire our information.

Dunning Kruger effect: This model deals with our ability to recognize the limitations of our own cognitive capacity and how for one to do that, it actually requires you to think about your own thinking capacity. Which basically translates into how confident some people are when they know so little about something and the more one digs deeper into some concept/theory/subject , the more they feel how little they know about something. This was the reality check I needed when I started working which showed me how little I know about various disciplines.

Simpson’s Paradox: This is something macro-economists end up doing a lot to prove their hypothesis or any company/group that is trying to sell their story by being very selective about how the data is being used to tell their narrative. This could often paint a different picture than what really is the truth. This is something that I believe has been done quite a lot in recent years by our government in order to portray how they have fared better than the opposition. The launching of various schemes in the past few years for nation development and tweaking data to tell a different story has been an existing narrative in the past few years. The autonomy of the National Statistical Commission being questioned has been a classic example of that(explained here). To sum it up, it means :”A trend can appear in groups of data but disappear when these groups are combined. This effect can easily be exploited by limiting a dataset so that it shows exactly what one wants it to show. Thus: beware of even the strongest correlations.”

Tocqueville Paradox : This paradox mentions that “As the living standards in a society rise, the people’s expectations of the society rise with it. The rise in expectations eventually surpasses the rise in living standards, inevitably resulting in disaffection (and sometimes populist uprisings)”.This one is more fitting to the current situation as since the onset of this pandemic there have been two kind of narratives that have been circulating. One that says that the governments have been incompetent and the world is doomed but we need a little bit of history to understand how deadly such pandemics can be. The Bubonic plague which began in 1300s ended up wiping 1/3rd of Europe’s population. The doctors then thought that the way to combat this would be as absurd as burning aromatic herbs and bathing in rosewater or vinegar. Thankfully, we live in a world that has advanced exorbitantly in medicine if not medicare, but that’s still a huge progress. The optimism somehow goes missing when the past need for better standards have been met. Though one could also argue that this dissatisfaction is what keeps the cycle of innovation going.

Halo Effect : This is something that I assume all of us have at some point in our lives been subjected to or have viewed another individual through that lens. The tweet summarizes it by saying that “When a person sees an agreeable characteristic in something or someone, they assume other agreeable characteristics.” Throughout my university this is something that has been quite prominent. The part where which group you sit and eat with ends up defining what your inherent traits are and not who you are as an individual. This also something that reflects in the professional sphere, where working in an xyz company speaks about you as an individual irrespective of the kind of work that you end up doing in that workplace. Though on another side note this could be really helpful in ruling out toxic behaviour by drawing from past experiences and the slightest of character traits that exhibit that could help in avoiding toxic partners.

Subselves: This one builds to what I would like to draw from another one of the podcasts, where transactional analysis is discussed. It tries to take into account the different roles we play while interacting in different spheres. We play the role of an ‘adult’, ‘child’ and ‘parent’ while placed in different contexts.

The Parent, The Adult and The Child: Discussion on Transactional Analysis( Not Overthinking)

The theme of this podcast was to discuss the framework for understanding human relationships that were theorised by Dr.Eric Berne. It brought in a certain clarity to why we behave differently in different situations by categorising our personality into three types: The parent, the adult and the child. Transactional Analysis is basically an attempt at standardizing human behaviour so that we can talk about it in a more comprehensible manner. The discussion was drawn from the book, ‘I am Ok, You’re Ok’ by Thomas Harris.

Inside us, we have three people, the parent, the adult and the child. In order to understand the parent part of our personality, it is necessary to understand that it draws learnings from experiences or memories our experiences with our parents while growing up. We are often not good at understanding the nuances of the situation when we are young and what remains of these experiences of what we have had growing up with our parents is the emotions that we have felt. For example, when I saw my parents fight over something, all I remember is being scared of the entire act and how one parent played a dominant role in all those acts. So all I drew from it is that when you and your partner disagree, raising your voice to avoid the vulnerability might help in concluding the entire disagreement. This is something that I had to actively correct after realising that I behave like the ‘parent’ me when confronted with conflict. We often even learn to love someone else my mirroring the relationships that our parents have had as the understanding of these emotions is developed through our primary experiences of these emotions ( which is basically when we are growing up). We often tend to internalise these learnings without even questioning it because we lack the cognitive ability to modify it when growing up.

The goal of transactional analysis is for us to shape the ‘adult’ part of us by correcting the data that shapes ‘the parent’ and ‘the child’ part of our personalities. The ‘child’ part of our personality is very dominant when living at home even if we are not that way anymore. This is something that is pretty obvious for anyone who has moved away from their families and when one visits them occasionally we fall back into our child routine or the personality traits that were more obvious when we were a young. The fact is, that this doesn’t just happen with our immediate family but everyone we have grown up with and find it difficult to break the patterns. The point that my mum still has to shout at me to help her out with cleaning and cooking during the entire lockdown situation even though I am an adult, is a classic ‘child’ personality being dominant.

The gist of the discussion was how we could be more self-aware when exhibiting these certain traits and how it would be helpful for us to deal with situations by liberating ourselves from the recurring ‘parent’ and ‘child’ personality.

Tobi Lutke: The Trust Battery (The Knowledge Project)

This podcast traces the growth of ‘Shopify’, which is the largest e-commerce platform that allows people to easily set up online storefronts. It is an interesting conversation with the founder of Shopify, Tobi Lutke. He credits some part of the growth of his business to the habit of playing video games in his formative years. He says that playing starcraft helped in developing his strategic thinking, where in the game you are handed with certain resources and are required to make choices every minute in order to build in the game. It is in many ways similar to the real-life scenario where you are building a business, only the pressure that comes with each choice is compounded. Every waking minute while building a business one is faced with many choices revolving around investment, ideas and execution. So basically video games are a distilled environment for one to experiment with the consequences of our choices.

Another interesting revelation was that entrepreneurship has been tanking. The requirements to start a company has increased and the skillsets one requires has gone up. The flexibility in the environment has reduced and the fact that certain skill-sets play an important role has further decreased the circle of entrepreneurs. Advantage begets advantage plays a bigger role today than it has in the past.

Multidimensionality plays a bigger role in shaping large scale businesses. It is helpful for one to build your own case studies while starting a new business rather than relying on one single narrative. All big companies have been created by solving complicated problems or say some fundamental problems through the simplest solutions. For example Henry Ford’s idea of mass production of cars revolutionised how industrial models would work in a way to uplift the working class of the society. The idea of mass production and breaking the complex task of production in repetitive series of tasks has been a model of working for many big companies today. McDonalds or Burger King applying it to the ideas of food production is another example of that.

It’s really hard to build a company if there is no competent enemy. The utility of the product that is developed in not optimised without it. This is something that sounds bizarre at fast but the most successful products also had the most competent alternatives which further drove innovation.

The most impactful of all the things that were talked about in the podcast is the need of growth mindset while building anything new and not that of a fixed mindset. It helps in expanding our ability to make better choices as there is no guidebook or a set of rules for anything successful. It’s a series of choices under high pressure situations and an expanded thinking helps in taking into account the aspect of multi-dimensionality.

The underlying theme to all these three podcasts was the need of multidimensionality in our thinking and how it helps to be better us by thinking objectively about almost all situations. I hope the ‘adult’ you found these learnings interesting.

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