Find part two of this episode here:
Zac: WELCOME back to Business Second Opinion Podcast. We’re so excited to bring you another episode.
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Business Second Opinion Podcast digs deep to explore questions about business and business practice. Ones that you may not know you need to ask. But we believe you should be asking. In the process of examining them, we give you a second opinion, usually a contrarian opinion, but one that is well tested and proven to give the outcomes you really want without the side effects.
I am Zac Swartout, and always with me is Carol Sanford, our inhouse positive contrarian. Who responds to big and hard questions with a radically different take.
Carol: Hi Zac
Zac: The biggest and most commonly asked question we’ve received in the past month is, “what is your take on what got us into the mess we are in, including the fall out of the novel coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis?” This is a pretty big question, Carol.
Carol: Yes, and we have to start in a different place than most articles and blogs, as we are attempting to get a regenerative approach and answer. Not easy in a 30 minute episode, but I think we can give a start and some resources.
Zac: Anyone who listens to us regularly will know, we believe that how we think filters, influences, and in a lot of cases, determines what we can think about. Not only that but it also determines what we can see, how we are likely to behave and intervene, and then ultimately the results we get. Which is really a lot tied into this so-called “soft skill”. In the past we’ve talked about how when we see the world and people unconsciously as machines, that thinking has us treating them like expendable pieces, or automatons that we can pay to take direction from us and do repetitive work over and over again with stopping.
Carol: So, our work today is to give people a framework for better thinking capability. But we always push off of a Harvard Business Review author’s advice on the subject. So what are we using today?
Zac: So I found an article called, How to Build Critical Thinking Skills that I think is pretty typical of the conventional thinking. It is by Matt Plummer in the Oct. 11, 2019 issue. Mr Plummer says that you should follow his 4 phase process to assess your workers using a synthesis of 3 research backed critical thinking focused models. This process starts from a foundation of ensuring your workers have aptitude in verbal reasoning, decision making, and problem solving and then jumps off from there.
Carol: And what is your assessment of that advice. How do you think about it when you read?
Zac: As a business owner, Mr. Plummer lays out for me these 4 phases he calls execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate, that I’ll run through quickly for our listeners. At the execute phase the goal here is to train my people to tell them to do what I instruct them to do – turn instructions into action, as he calls it. After they can do that, then I move them to the synthesize phase, where I train my people to figure out what is important information versus not important and be able to relay that important information onto others. The third phase is recommend, where I train my workers to reason through decisions before they recommend their ideas to others. I do this by making sure that I
avoid giving them my opinion but make sure to ask them how they came to their
decisions and ensuring it came through sound reasoning. The fourth and final
phase is generate, where I need to train my workers by role modeling and inviting
them to mimic me in how I go about creating my own projects by taking input
from other people and myself. Also once they start doing this on their own, I need
to vet these ideas with them.
Carol: Yeah, I see all sorts of challenges with this in terms of the effects it has on people to do what he described, but what did you see as the effect of that whole process?
Zac: Well the effect of this whole process on me as a business owner implies that
my workers need to think, act, and do like me or they won’t ever be able to be
effective workers. It seems to imply that I’ve hired blank slates or robots I need to
Carol: I think that and another idea that I had is that it all seems pretty shallow. I mean first it’s all internally focused: It’s me and my workers, there’s no connection to any external work. Also the way of doing it has a tendency, as you say “more like robots”, it doesn’t actually teach them how to think except from the base he gives. So, it feels to me like it’s not really giving us an answer in terms of what got us into the mess and what will get us out. What do you think?
Zac: I think what’s missing here for me Carol is a fundamental belief that people have unique contributions to bring. Also I’m not sure how getting everyone to think the same leads to innovation, which, at a small company like mine, we desperately need to endeavor to do.
Carol: I want to offer a contrasting framework to the author’s idea of what critical thinking is and how it is done. And particularly what capability you are building and using to build when working on developing critical thinking skills, And it will take a bit of time here to demonstrate it. So listeners hang in for a few minutes and hopefully, it will make sense. Are you ready to join with me on that?
Zac: Definitely, more than ready. It seems we need something that doesn’t flatten the view of humans but uplifts us, particularly at this moment in our history. We need to find ways to be capable of such greater contribution with one another and the systems in which we are nested.
Carol: I have felt for over four decades we needed four foundational changes to how we go about understanding our world and how we pursue change. They underlie everything you hear from us here. First, we need to change how we learn and formulate knowledge and share it with others. This is called an epistemology. We have outdated, incomplete and sometimes complete wrong ways of coming to know what we know and share
Zac: Ah right. Another way of thinking about epistemology is what we are allowed to know, and how we come to learn.
Carol: Yes. Let’s come back to what that means and how to do it in a minute. Second, we need to change how we think the world works, which is a paradigm shift and so not so easy. This is called a cosmology.
Zac: Like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson? What they are demanding of us is to consider more deeply how we believe the universe works. We also might call this a world view. The ask here is not so much to say we have one, but to reflect on its implications and effects.
Carol: Third, we need to have a better idea of how humans work, their psychology and mentation and why they behave the way they do. We need a better framing process than what is considered now to be normal.
Zac: Like not seeing humans as fixed through time, or analogize them to rats, or machines.
Carol: Yes and how to grow them to self-manage that. Fourth, that leads us to needing to see the foundation of everything as a capability challenge and in need or a developmental approach. We have a capability crisis that underlies all the other crises and need to have a massive, systemic way to shift that!
Zac: We talked about that last time and developing that literally means unfolding a nascent aspect of an ability within me. Like consciousness, for example. Or critical thinking… but how we think about it.
Carol: If you read what is in the news today, it is all basically how to deal with the horrible outcomes that come from crisis and particularly pandemics in the past, or how to use it all to create more positive overcomes from the negative. The opposite of negative is not positive new steps. At least there is an intervening opportunity to shift things, so we don’t just seek to find ourselves fighting over the necessary positive opportunities. The real opportunity is to evolve the four foundational cornerstones that let us design the next evolution more effectively that designs out the systems failures that threaten existence.
Zac: So if I’m following you here, what you are getting at is that we are in a thinking capability and being management capability crisis, not an optimism or course correction crisis. This capability stuff is what underlies it all. That seems like a big step but it sounds so slow, Carol. Do we have time for this? And for that matter, how do we begin to move that way if we want to give people a way to take it on?
Carol: Then let’s start with the first one. The epistemology crisis. How we teach, how people learn. At the moment that is all from experts and teachers of expertise. It is absorb and test for absorption.
Zac: Many people agree and try to make learning fun, interactive and application based. That is not what you are questioning or suggesting here, right? That is just a cleverer and more sophisticated version of the same epistemology. Transfer knowledge in more creative ways. And do it faster.
Carol: Socrates saw this for what it was. A way to control minds by controlling what people have access to. It is adopted by every institution since institutions existed. Including families. Some know the stuff needed and transfer it by teaching, coaching, mentoring, role modeling those who don’t know.
Zac: That is how we socialize humans when they are born, join our family, are hired by us, embrace our faith or join a mission to defend. It is time honored. But what falls out is the capability to hold multiple perspectives. This ultimately causes a tremendous amount of harm by dropping out the ability to be discerning about how our thoughts lead to actions which lead to effects that we are asleep to.
Carol: So the alternative is to reexamine what Socrates was killed for. Teaching people how to think and rigorously examine their own mind and the ideas by others with a formal, disciplined process. To utilize processes to disrupt our mechanical processes.
Zac: That is why our School is about breaking the habit of being taught knowledge. Instead we learn to examine proffered ideas, outcomes and effects of ideas if we decide to follow them. That is why our Prime Directive is: never accept nor reject anything offered without testing it with your own experience.
Carol: Yes and that is the role of many of our instruments and ways we develop change agents. To give up expertise, coaching, mentoring and knowledge transfer and develop people to generate better quality thinking as a person or community.
Zac: I know for myself learning has always been about seeking knowledge to cram into my brain to then use as a tool to seem smart, or a weapon to beat people up intellectually who’s views differed from my own. Learning for me has now become a process of discernment, which literally means pulling apart, concepts, ideas, and theories to be able to see how they work and the worldview that drives them. This has led me over time to be more considering of the external effects in my approach to life and business.
Carol: Cosmology shift now. Let’s do a bit of Neil deGrasse Tyson work here. His favorite lesson is “think like a scientist,” where what you know is less important than how you think. I think we are saying, “think like a philosopher, or maybe an ecological scientist.” And how you think is the key.
Zac: How we think about how the world works has led us to simultaneous systems collapsing in short order. Last episode, we talked about how we should learn to see imperatives. Just to remind us, global imperatives invite us to consider what is necessary to evolve a particular whole or system. Man, Carol, this is a really different way of thinking critically than teaching someone to repeat their assignments back to me to make sure they know what they are supposed to do.
Carol: We have built systems on sinking sand and false premises about how the universe we live within, the planet we live upon and the social engagements we have, are happening. Our economics does not understand how healthy functioning of exchange among folks works. Our science has created fragmented views of how subsets of systems work and how wholes work and what that requires of us.
Zac: Examples that are becoming obvious that to that point are: see as parts, generic and opposing ideas rather than a system
Carol: In other words, we are not thinking as a scientist or philosopher of a whole system science. We see it as dead rather than living. Let’s look at the third one.
To be continued—see part two here.
Zac: Carol Sanford Institute has been offering online, development for almost a decade so we are pretty good at it. What we’re offering is a set of FREE Morning Meetings Live where we look at how too Transform Uncertainty into Action based on Systems thinking can inform your live in times of crisis, you daily decisions and action, and how you help others. Join my newsletter to get invitation only links to the recordings if you missed the Live online events.
Carol: We have a new community. The Regenerative Educator Community. For education and development roles for anyone who considers themselves an educator. The community is established to enable members to work with a Developmental Epistemology, that is how they want to educate: Move from expert view to- Experientially, Developmentally, based in 7 First Principles of Regeneration. Check out SEED-communities.com to learn more. Look under Regenerative Life offerings.
Zac: And for Women Entrepreneurs, check out that same link for communities just for you.
Carol: and keep listening to Business Second Opinion for more ideas on working from Regenerative Paradigms and Practices. And Carol’s new book is out The Regenerative Life with an extensive workbook and Book Club materials, which Carol support with Live online Workshops for Free. More at carolsanford.com.
Zac: Thanks again to our sponsors at Guayaki and your pursuit of Regeneration with high integrity. If you want one of our Get a Second Opinion Mugs, send us your article and topics on practices in business that needs a second opinion. You can email us at carol@businessSecondOpinion.com or find us on Twitter @biz_second_opinion . If we use it to develop an episode, you get a mug. Also, your ratings and reviews on any platform help people find us and spread the word. Sign up for our newsletter so you get connections to the show notes and much more.
Carol: Thanks to Numi Tea: They sponsor our Business Second Opinion Show Notes and Babson College for sponsoring The Regenerative Business Summit and Prize, annually online and in Boston Check out the Business Second Opinion website for more info on our podcast. Join Numi Tea as a Champion of our podcast.
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Business Second Opinion Podcast digs deep to answer questions about business and business practice, you may not know you need to ask. But we believe you should be asking for the benefit of your understanding and your businesses ethics and practice. In the process of answering them, we give you a second opinion, usually a contrarian opinion, but that is well tested and proven to give the outcomes you really want without the side effects.
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WAYS TO CONNECT WITH CAROL SANFORD EVENTS OR HER WAY OF THINKING
- Explore how you can learn to apply the alternative approaches offered in Business Second Opinion.
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- Read Carol’s books or join a book club
- The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes
- The Responsible Entrepreneur: Four Game-Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders, and Impact Investors
- The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success
- No More Feedback: Cultivate Consciousness at Work
Her books have won over 15 awards so far and are required reading at leading business and management schools including Harvard, Stanford, Haas Berkeley and MIT and almost 100 other academic institutions. Carol also partners with producing Executive Education through Babson College, Kaospilot in Denmark and University of Washington, Bothell, WA, sponsored by The Lewis Institute at Babson.
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Carol Sanford and Zac Swartout, co-producers