Monday, April 27, 2015

An Anti-Digital Mind: A Binary Mind

When technology has long ago shifted from analog mode to digital mode, it's the time for the mind shift as well.

The digital world is nonlinear and ambiguous, also multi-dimensional and colorful. However, many leaders and business professionals still keep the old silo thinking habits at the industrial age, for many of them, people are either good or bad, friend or enemy; things are either right or wrong; win or lose; the state is either blue or red, and the world is either black or white; there are no shades in between. Either you call it “extreme thinking,” “binary thinking,” or “bipolar thinking,” such mind is too rigid in the outlook; too judgmental in managing relationship; too static to sense the change; too silo to think the big picture, and too linear to fit in the non-linear digital world. More specifically, what’re the root causes of such mindset, is it changeable?

A binary mind takes two-dimensional lenses to see the multi-facet world: The extreme or binary thinking of only embracing the opposite sides and take the two-dimensional lenses to perceive the multi-facet world can limit your view to observe the world more objectively; distort the picture of reality, restrict the scope of your thought process, and cloud your mind to make good judgement either in decision making or problem solving. The leaders or business professionals with binary thinking are resistant to listen to the diverse viewpoint; have no intention to understand the other side of the coin; push the people to take the side, many times, they become the part of problems which they try to solve. In order to adapt to the new digital way, they need to increase their cognitive agility and cultivate empathy by exploring alternative viewpoints and cross-disciplinary interpretations.  
Linear thinking is another root cause to the binary thinking: Linear thinking is viewed by many as being simply the opposite of closed loop thinking (thinking in a straight line rather than circularly). In the real, physical world, most relationships are non-linear. People vastly underestimate the complexity and non-linearity of the human cognition processes they rely on in all business systems. So it is important to encourage them to understand how “extreme thinking” can build the wall at the peoples’ heart, damage relationship building, and make it hard for them to adapt to the hybrid “coopetitive” (competition+cooperation) digital environment.

Superficiality will also cause such anti-digital "extreme thinking" pattern: More often, the binary thinking just focuses on the symptoms, and lack of systems thinking and independent thinking capability, only catches the conventional understanding of content, not the contextual insight beneath the surface; the quantity over quality; the close-mindedness, the stereotypical thinking or pre-conceived ideas about how things should happen. The reality is that there is known known, there is known unknown, and there is unknown unknown. The enemy of being an independent thinker is an inclination to think something and say something else, or follow other's opinion without digesting through and digging deeper. It takes courage and integrity to say “I do not know,” especially when you leverage unknown factors in making significant decisions which may affect many peoples’ life. Superficiality is the very reason to make the world disconnect. To avoid thinking extremely, you have to practice multi-dimensional thinking processes such as critical thinking, creative thinking, systems thinking, analytic thinking, synthetic thinking, holistic thinking and more.

Group level binary thinking is caused by the homogeneous team setting: From industry study, group polarization means that a group of people can make a more extreme decision than an individual. You'd think that a group would tend to democratize the diversified viewpoint and to moderate individual points of view. In fact, the opposite often occurs: In a phenomenon known as group polarization (the group of people more often “think the same,”), deliberation can intensify people’s attitudes, leading to more extreme decisions.

When technology has long ago shifted from analog mode to digital mode, it's the time for the mind shift as well. People with binary thinking process need to train them with systems thinking (to see how the parts connected with the whole), independent thinking (to leverage different resources for information collection, and more importantly how to abstract knowledge into insight and wisdom) and multi-dimensional thinking (do not judge something with binary standard such as good or bad, right or wrong or black and white; practice empathetic thinking and in-depth analytic thinking, etc.). The world embraces the full spectrum of colors, so does our thinking.


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