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Paradigms Lost – and Resurrected: A Systematic Path to Transform Culture & Worldview Habits – Part 3

Written by: Barry Borgerson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Part 2 of this article developed the broad concept of auto-contexts by building up from the previous best insight into this mental mechanism in the form of Thomas Kuhn’s paradigms and paradigm shifts.

Part 3: Certainty Anomalies – We Need the Courage and the Wisdom to Notice Them


You will see as you continue reading this 8-Part article that the previous formulas the West has used to achieve its many successes and an unfair competitive advantage for about two centuries are now fundamentally inadequate. We are on the slippery slope to mediocrity, and part of escaping that dismal future will require us to stop succumbing to certainty delusions that cause chronic pretending. The key mechanism to do that is to transform ourselves to have the courage to recognize and acknowledge anomalies that reveal some of our certainties are counterproductive, others are so dysfunctional they are standing in the way of our progress, and some are so dangerous they are destroying our future.


We Need to Identify Anomalies in the Worldview We Use to Notice the Accumulation of Anomalies


Part 3 explores Kuhn’s key insight 3 listed previously in this article: Accumulation of anomalies.


Why Don’t Anomalies Change Our Minds? Anomalies are key failure indicators that we all need to understand and stay on alert for in our professional and personal lives. These are incongruences or disconnects in outcomes or data with respect to our confident assumptions, passionate assertions, shared theories, deeply felt certainties or widespread beliefs. You will see many examples of anomalies in this article, including in business, politics, and several other types of activities. It would seem that if we have overwhelming evidence that a theory or assumption is counterproductive or dysfunctional because we can notice many anomalies in outcomes, disqualification will become obvious to anybody, and they would quickly alter their belief or assertion. These visible anomalies should give us a wake-up call that something is wrong with our assumptions or theories, so why do so many people struggle and fail to wake up? This inability to respond effectively to obvious anomalies provides additional evidence that we indeed operate in two distinct modes and that one of these modes puts up tenacious barriers to recognizing and dealing with such anomalies. Searching for anomalies is a thinking-self activity, whereas certainty illusions are auto-self activities. As normally occurs when a battle ensues between the thinking-self and auto-self, the auto-self, and in this case the auto-context, routinely wins this conflict due to the unfair fight.


How the Certainty Illusion Strikes Again: The certainty illusion blocks us from looking for anomalies – our natural state is to refuse or at least avoid challenging the veracity of assertions, assumptions, theories, beliefs, or certainties because we experience certainty illusions as inherently true. In this article, you will see many examples of anomalies that are easy to discover once we learn to overcome the debilitating effects of our certainty illusions.


From Slow Indirect to Rapid Direct Anomaly Recognition: Previously, anomaly recognitions were slow, painful, indirect processes. Now we need to construct a worldview that empowers us to directly search for anomalies as the way to verify or invalidate correspondence of our certainties (e.g., in theories, assumptions, assertions) with facts in the world outside of our auto-contexts or alignment with our success needs. Our technology-driven, rapidly changing, hyper-disruptive social environments (including business and politics) now require that we make a discontinuous ascent in our abilities to recognize and handle anomalies.


The Accumulation of Anomalies: We don’t normally have direct access to the contents of our problem-solving worldviews. We can create techniques for unpacking their contents, but even without that, Kuhn showed us a way to determine their viability. He spoke of anomalies in scientific theories, or more powerfully about the accumulation of anomalies, as a way to determine that a science paradigm has outlived its effectiveness. That is, the more anomalies that we discover, the more likely it is that the auto-context-based certainty does not correspond with facts in the world or align with our success needs.


It’s Time to Recognize Anomalies in How We Recognize Anomalies


Our Future Successes and Well-Being Require that We Look for Anomalies in Our Certainties. A troubling and destabilizing fact is that our internal certainties often deceive us. Therefore, we need to create and propagate a foundational certainty that causes us to realize that even our most powerful certainties may not correspond with anything outside of auto-contexts buried in the hidden recesses of our minds. We must train ourselves and others to overcome the self-deception that our certainties necessarily correspond with something outside of our internal mental states. That may seem complicated, but it’s not. Instead, it is a new capability we need to develop that will create extreme challenges because we tenaciously and often passionately resist challenging our assumptions, theories, assertions, beliefs, or conclusions that we experience as profoundly true – as certainties.


Cognitive Dissonance: About a half-decade, before Kuhn wrote his book on paradigms, Leon Festinger wrote a book, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, with powerful insights that we can now connect with auto-contexts. He identified dissonance as “non-fitting relations among cognitions” that create mental “disequilibrium.” We are interested here in the cognitive dissonance that occurs when the thinking self discovers facts, outcomes, or other forms of solid information that do not align with an auto-context. This dissonance creates reality vertigo and its concomitant discomfort, which automatically repels us due to the certainty illusion and the Comfort Imperative. No wonder we have so much trouble searching out and dealing with anomalies in our problem-solving worldviews, business cultures, and other manifestations of auto-contexts because these anomalies related to our auto-contexts always create bewildering and discomfort-producing cognitive dissonance.


Ignoring Anomalies Hides Your Certainty Delusions from You


Succumbing to Self-Deception: We now understand that an accumulation of anomalies creates the alarm that we need to recognize we have an embedded auto-context in the form of a theory, assumption, or belief that does not correspond with facts or align with our success needs. Auto-contexts always create certainty illusions in the sense that they create a certainty for us that is independent of external realities. However, when we fail to notice or become incapable of accepting the existence of a large number of accumulated anomalies, we have allowed ourselves to succumb to a certainty delusion. It does not stretch our imagination to realize that this self-deception does not provide a path to a successful future. To create the empowering ability to search for and acknowledge anomalies, we need a new worldview about worldviews. Or, more generally, we need an auto-context to help us understand and manage auto-contexts. 2Selfs Worldview, which will gradually and imperceptibly emerge within people as they use 2Selfs Theory, will provide that capability.


We Need to Construct a Belief that Beliefs Are Often Delusions


Thoughts vs. Beliefs: We sometimes casually interchange the terms “thoughts” and “beliefs.” We might informally say, “I think I will like this movie” or “I believe I will enjoy this film.” Likewise, people might say they think capitalism is better than socialism, or they believe capitalism is better than socialism. However, two very different mental processes are involved, and we must learn to attend to the difference. Our thinking-self manages our thoughts and explicit knowledge. Our auto-contexts contain our beliefs and implicit knowledge, and our social environments construct many of our most cherished, compelling beliefs during childhood, during formal education, and when assimilating into an organization. We think about (a thinking-self process) our (explicit) knowledge, and we can change our knowledge at will (within our auto-context constraints). We have certainty about (an auto-self, and more specifically, an auto-context process) our beliefs, and they tenaciously resist change.


A Destructive Delusional Political Belief: In the political world, a May 25, 2021, USA Today article by Matthew Brown pointed out that more than six months after the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States in 2020, polls show that over half of Republicans hold the delusional belief that Donald Trump actually won the election. This is a clear example of constructing an extremely destructive certainty delusion into the auto-contexts of many citizens (and voters!) of the US. This widespread belief, relentlessly promulgated by nefarious forces, presents a major threat to the continuing existence of our constitutional republic in the US. We would be wise to remember that Germany had a constitutional republic before Hitler seized power.


A Diversionary Delusional Business Belief: Unlike the delusional belief that the 2020 US presidential election was stolen, which you just saw, this one did not create a direct threat to our successes and well-being. Rather it created a long-term diversion from marshaling resources to solve critical business problems because it constructed a widespread belief promulgated by the business and popular press. That worldview caused many business leaders to believe that a series of books (In Search of Excellence, Built to Last, What Really Works, Good to Great) had found magical formulas for “sustainable” success through literature searches and retrospective interviews. Phil Rosenzweig created a brilliant exposé of this approach in his book, The Halo Effect: . . . and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers. Prof. Rosenzweig indirectly identifies the construction of certainty delusions by recognizing what he called “business delusions.”


Constructing a New Empowering Belief about Beliefs: Beliefs have the potent natural distinguishing property of being impervious to thinking-self-based analysis, confirmation or refutation of viability, or anomalies recognition. Our intentions to manage our dysfunctional auto-self characteristics reside in our thinking-self, but when we try to gain direct control over malfunctioning aspects of our auto-self, we routinely lose that unfair fight. So, what can we possibly do when some of our beliefs or certainties get in the way of our needs? We must attempt to follow the only practical path available to us in such situations. We need to take control of an errant auto-self activity indirectly by constructing a new auto-self process that we can control and then use it to manage the one we cannot control directly. In this case, we can construct and propagate a new foundational belief that some of our beliefs do not correspond with anything outside of our minds or do not align with our prosperity, well-being, business success, or political viability needs. That is, many of our beliefs are nothing more than certainty illusions, and in our digital-technology-driven world, many are rapidly becoming certainty delusions. Fortunately, we now have the capability to construct and propagate a foundational belief that our beliefs are mental constructions over which we can exercise purposeful control.


We Need to Learn the Truth about “Truth”


Two Distinct Forms of “Truth”: Professor Matthew McGlone, whom I discussed in my Brainz Magazine article It’s All in Your Mind, seems to have, like most people, an unrecognized worldview that “truth” corresponds to something “out there” in the world. And, it often does. However, we have a thinking-self version of truth, and an auto-self version of “truth, and the latter is becoming more prominent as our digital era starts to overwhelm us. Failure to distinguish between these two distinct, often correlated but frequently opposed, forms of truth leads to massive dysfunctions. Creating and propagating the belief that many times what we experience as “true” does not correspond with facts in the world or align with our success needs is another powerful mechanism to secure a better future for ourselves and our progeny.


“Out There” vs. “In Here” Forms of “Truth”: The first and most straightforward form of “truth” is the correspondence verification form. That is, our thinking-self verifies that an assertion corresponds with the world “out there” – outside of our minds. The second form of what we experience as “truth” is a certainty construction “in here” that resides in a particular part of the auto-self – namely in our auto-contexts.


The Correspondence Verification Form of Truth: This is the thinking self's form of truth. In its most straightforward use, we would say something is true if it corresponds to some fact in the world – to something that is “out there.” For instance, someone could assert that it is true that “my name is John Doe and that I live in My Town” or “the earth is not the center of the universe.” Those statements would normally correspond with the facts of that person’s life and would correspond to the physical world. A major characteristic of this form of truth is the absence of a significant number of anomalies when searching for correspondence with facts “out there.” We refer to this type of truth as the correspondence verification (or correspondence for short) form of truth. If that was the only form of truth we had to deal with, our lives would work much better, and many of our social systems would not be in decline. We use our thinking self to verify that an assertion corresponds with external reality (that is, outside of our internal mental states) using such mechanisms as science, formal logic, and the examination of documentary evidence.


The Certainty Construction Form of “Truth”: Humans experience a radically different and overwhelmingly potent form of “truth” that relies upon an auto-self mechanism. While most people implicitly assume when they experience something as “true” that it corresponds to facts in the world, that is unfortunately now increasingly not the case. Auto-contexts create this second form of “truth” through the certainty illusion. Not surprisingly, if we feel certain about assumptions and theories buried within our auto-contexts (including professional worldviews, business cultures, self-images, and attitudes), then we automatically experience the contents of these auto-contexts as “true” independent of correspondence with anything “out there” or alignment with our prosperity and well-being needs.


We Need to Construct an Auto-Context that Empowers Us to Believe but Verify


Human Nature and Beliefs: Whether you call them certainties, theories, fundamental assumptions, worldviews, cultures, attitudes, or beliefs, auto-contexts create extremely powerful and tenacious realities for us. Since auto-contexts are a basic part of human nature, all of their manifestations listed above and more are, therefore, natural mental processes. As such, they evolved to serve beneficial purposes, including problem-solving worldviews (Kuhn’s paradigms for science), cultural elements for businesses and other types of organizations, the mental (patriotism) glue that holds societies together, and shared values. However, now that we understand auto-contexts, we can see that the semiconductor-driven digital era has created two distinct types of fundamental problems that biological evolution will not overcome. First, disruptive changes now occur much too rapidly for biological evolution to accommodate. Second, the problems we are encountering do not impact procreation, which is where biological evolution has its impacts. Instead, they impact our prosperity and well-being – our quality of life.


Two Distinct Mechanisms through Which Our Auto-Contexts Negatively Affect Us: Both negative impacts result from the Abilities Mismatch driven by the overwhelming progress we continue to make in creating new technologies and products, many of which ultimately rely on semiconductor-based digital technologies.

  • Disruptive Changes Are Accelerating: This should not surprise you because the evidence is everywhere. What we need to focus on is how to accommodate these changes in our human activities when our auto-contexts tenaciously resist changing. You will get a good understanding of this problem later in this article when we discuss the human ramifications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technology disruptions.

  • Unmanaged Communications Are Ubiquitous: Digital communications technologies make constructing widespread auto-contexts extremely easy. This, in turn, makes constructing certainty delusions very easy, so we must create ways for individuals to counteract this belief-construction process for which most people currently have no defenses. You will see examples of this in business and politics later in this article.


Believe but Verify! We can change slightly an adage of former US president Ronald Reagan of Trust but Verify to serve our current needs. In our digitally-driven hyper-disruptive and highly manipulative times, we need to create the courage to challenge our internal certainties (certainty illusions and delusions) stowing away in our auto-contexts. Therefore, to secure a successful personal, career, business, or societal future, people in the West should adopt a motto, or mantra, or fundamental operating principle of Believe but Verify! It may be more precise to use Believe but Challenge and Verify, but the shorter version creates a better adage or mantra to focus our attention, intentions, and actions.


We Need a New Foundational Certainty about the Nature of Our Certainties


Transcending Our Certainties Is One Key to Unlock Future Successes. Many of our certainties serve us well. However, examples abound where internal certainties undermine our successes. Our future widespread repeated successes, improving prosperity, and systematic well-being require us to construct a new auto-context that makes us certain that some of our deepest certainties do not correspond to anything outside of an auto-context hidden in the deep corners of our auto-self and that increasingly often create self-deceptions. Once we instill that foundational auto-context, we can overcome the knowing-doing gap and thereby emancipate our thinking-self to search for anomalies in our certainties. That is, we cannot just have the knowledge; we must construct an auto-context that causes us to believe that some of our certainties no longer, and in many cases never did, correspond with facts or align with our success needs. Believe but Verify!


We Need Processes that Empower Us to Reveal the Contents of Our Auto-Contexts


Revelation: It will help us tremendously in so many aspects of our lives if we can learn to reveal the contents of our auto-contexts. Unfortunately, that is normally a very difficult task. First, in common with other types of auto-self activities, we don’t have direct access to our auto-contexts – they are highly elusive. Second, we chronically fail to recognize that even our deepest and often most passionate certainties are just mental constructs embedded in auto-contexts that may not correspond to anything outside of our mind – they are highly illusive, which often makes them stubbornly self-delusive


Knowing Content but not the Source: Sometimes, we recognize the content of our certainties, but we have no clue they are constructed auto-contexts that may or may not correspond with facts or align with success needs. The story about Chris later in this article gives a good example. The Stop the Steal phenomenon after the 2020 US presidential election is a quintessential example of a widely constructed, explicitly understood certainty delusion that is divorced from external reality. Most victims who had this certainty delusion constructed within their auto-context are clueless that they succumbed to systematic manipulations. Our future successes and well-being require that we take actions to make most people able to Believe but Verify!


Oblivious to Auto-Context Content that Controls our Behaviors and Actions: Other times, auto-contexts control our actions, but we don’t recognize the contents. The story about William later in this article is an excellent example. In business, we sometimes refer to this phenomenon as implicit or tacit knowledge. In Williams’s case, it was a dysfunctional attitude. This incarnation of auto-contexts is also the source of what we call implicit bias.


Making Certainties Explicit and Identifying Them as Auto-Contexts: Because auto-contexts are elusive and illusive, asking others or ourselves what the contents of an auto-context are rarely produces the desired result. Instead, as in the cases of Chris and William, keep asking why. The relentless pursuit of “whys” often reveals the hidden content and identifies it as an auto-context-based certainty illusion in such forms as theories, assumptions, assertions, and attitudes. When we render our certainty illusions explicit, that opens the possibility to search for anomalies, as you will see in the cases of Chris and William. That process, in turn, creates the opportunity to reconstruct these auto-contexts into more functional forms.


You have now seen an overview of the nature of auto-contexts and gained visibility to many ways to determine their viability by searching for anomalies, and you have seen the necessity to Believe but Verify. In Part 4 of this article, we turn our attention to transforming auto-contexts when they no longer serve our success, prosperity, and well-being needs.


You can locate previous Parts of this article and other Parts as they appear by following this link: https://www.brainzmagazine.com/executive-contributor/barry-borgerson.


Connect with Barry on LinkedIn and visit his website for more information!


 

Barry Borgerson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Barry Borgerson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Ph.D. in computer science and one of his minors in the management of human resources. Barry co-led a multi-year DARPA-funded research project at the University and then went on to a highly successful career in the computer industry, starting as a lead computer architect and progressing through successive promotions to increasingly responsible leadership positions in technical management up to executive-level general management. When he took over a business that was failing and initiated actions to change some dysfunctional behaviors and the outdated culture of that business, he encountered so much counterproductive resistance that he started a long-term study into why very smart, highly educated, and extremely experienced people frequently cannot enact externally obvious changes they need to make to succeed.


That study led him to discover that the underlying cause of so many dysfunctional activities and the tenacious, normally uncontrollable, resistance to deep changes reside in enigmatic automatic human activities that business leaders normally do not notice, cannot change on their own if others point out their dysfunctions, and often deny they even exist. Barry then developed 2Selfs Theory, a comprehensive, business-friendly, generalized theory of the mind that models the sometimes cooperation but often competition between our explicit problem-solving abilities (using our “thinking self”) and our previously mysterious involuntary activities (driven by our “automatic self”) and provides systematic, reliable processes to align our elusive automatic actions with our explicit intentions and needed success priorities. Dr. Borgerson has repeatedly verified the effectiveness of the pragmatic 2Selfs Theory by applying it in many venues including through transformation coaching to reconstruct counterproductive behavior habits of business leaders and to change obsolete or dysfunctional company cultures, where the transformation processes worked immediately and repeatedly as the theory predicted.

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