“You will learn from others around you being skeptical more than you will learn by becoming skeptical.” – Daniel Kahneman
This past October, a world-renowned psychologist (who won a Nobel Price in Economics) published his latest book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. I’ve read a lot of reviews of the book and seen many of the interviews of him about this book and one of my favorite quotes (above) comes from the video (below). Take a few minutes and watch:
Kahneman, along with Amos Tversky have done so much for the fields of psychology and economics. Some say that this book is the culmination of their work. I have enjoyed reading Kahneman and Tversky’s work through the years and think that their contribution on the subject of heuristics is monumental.
The quote I started this post with (…learn more from others around you being skeptical…) is worth talking about for a little bit. When I first heard him say that, I must have replayed it at least a dozen times. I heard the words he was saying, but it took some time for the wisdom to sink in. So what is it that Kahneman was saying?
Have you ever heard of an echo chamber? It’s the idea that your ideas and beliefs are reinforced (or amplified) because those that you tell them to share said beliefs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re familiar with conformity and some of the psychological studies of it, you know how hard it is to break from the group’s opinion on a topic. I don’t think that Kahneman was referring to this phenomenon in particular, but if you think about how hard it is to break from the group’s dominant viewpoint, it would make some sense that being “skeptical” yourself is not as easy as it sounds. However, if those around you are skeptical, it will be easier to learn from their skepticism about a given topic.
So, as you think about assembling your next business team or you’re just talking with your friends, remember how important and valuable the dissenting voice can be. Remember that having a room full of people agree with you might not be the best idea. Remember how hard it is to be the singular dissenting voice. Remember to encourage healthy disagreement and an analysis from all sides. You’ll be much better off.