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The puzzle solver
Science brought us many breakthroughs and discoveries, including how to make unbiased conclusions using a rigorous process called the scientific method.
Hypotheses are the assumptions of science; they are what we believe we understand about the data we observe. And then we work on validating these through a series of experiments. When we validate a hypothesis, we can make correct conclusions. And when a test invalidates a hypothesis, science has taught us to let go and start over.
The process of validation is often missing from the human experience. We take our experiences and make quick conclusions about what they mean, and move on without further validation. This dangerous process leads to adopting baseless beliefs to which we cling. Once invested, we biasedly look toward validating our assumptions, instead of testing their validity. This process is flawed and unconscious. As William Issacs says, "What we do not notice principally is the difference between a direct experience and our assessment of it."
Chris Argyris provides us with a model to better understand this process which is called the Ladder of Inference. Perhaps the most important aspect of this model is the reflective loop, how previously made conclusions and beliefs become filters for what we observe from future experiences. It means previous decisions impact what we pay attention to moving forward. In other words, we seek what aligns with our beliefs and unconsciously ignore what doesn't.
As this reflexive loop repeats and reinforces, we can start to see how narrow our beliefs can become and how stuck we are with them.
It turns out that it's much harder to let go of already formed beliefs than it is to slow the process of belief adoption altogether.
And so, as we continue to challenge our many limiting and often obsolete beliefs, it's also as crucial to slow down and take charge of the inference process.
Next time you experience something you may or may not agree with and find yourself about to conclude what it means, interrupt yourself and ask these questions:
What are all the facts here?
What assumption am I making about these facts?
What am I missing? (be honest and curious)
What am I choosing (unconsciously) to leave out from what I’ve observed because of prior beliefs?
What else could this mean?
How does this go against a belief I hold and how could it also be true?
When we let the process of inference run automatically, we operate as a hole digger. The hole digger chooses the best location to dig. They commit and get to work; the harder they work, the deeper they get. When they hit a plateau of hard rock, they’ve come too far to stop, there’s no going back. They double down and dig harder from side to side to find a way around.
Instead, we might adopt the way of the puzzle solver. The puzzle solver looks around for a valid spot for a puzzle piece they’re trying to place; they make assumptions about where they believe it should go based on shape and colour. As they continue to solve the puzzle, it challenges their original belief about where the piece should go, therefore, they adjust it to fit the new data.
When we cling to the beliefs and assumptions we hold, it makes it impossible to see beyond them and have any fresh thinking. Because we think it, it doesn't mean it's true.
The biggest mistake we can make is to believe we're puzzle solvers, when in fact, we are digging holes.
Sparknotion – Think Differently.