It is harder than ever in troubling and uncertain times to understand what the truth is. Statistics are manipulated and facts and risks are hard to interpret. The right answer is to turn to nature and follow your gut instincts. Let me explain.
Statistically more swimmers drown than non-swimmers. This is perhaps because people who cannot swim avoid water. In the middle-ages people would gamble with six-sided dice that were visibly not square. They were not concerned by this as they believed that god would decide whether they were going to win or not so. Modern risk takers are less forgiving of stacked odds!
In a well-known GapMinder survey, thousands of people were asked a series of twelve factual questions, each with three possible answers. Alongside this, chimpanzees at a zoo were presented with three bananas marked A, B & C. The chimpanzees picked the right answer to the factual questions every third time. Yet, a stunning 15% of humans managed to pick the wrong answer for all twelve questions. That’s almost impossible for a monkey to achieve. It requires systematic misconceptions. The problem here is not the lack of correct knowledge. The problem is the presence of wrong “knowledge”. To score so badly requires a false perception of the world, that makes you systematically pick the wrong answer.
As humans, we are clearly highly susceptible to the information we are exposed to and this is reinforced by the positive selection of media across by our chosen feeds, and information results driven by our previous search engine activity.
How do we make rational choices given our biases? The answer is to revert to nature. Humans have evolved over time to have a natural bias against risk. Early humans crossing the savannah may have wondered whether the mound in the distance was more likely to be a lion or a rock; a key benefit of that caution being survival. As such, their descendants were naturally selected from a more risk averse pool.
Yet, humans love taking risks and thrive on uncertainty. Few people reading this article would like to know exactly when and how they will die. Living life is inherently dangerous and yet we seem to get through much of it relatively unscathed because we have a natural instinct. This gut instinct is the ability to know things without consciously reasoning.
So often our gut feelings are right – we just take time to match the facts to that initial intuition. When faced with difficult questions or choices – we need to divorce ourselves more from the pervasive modern world of facts that fit someone else’s view and trust our gut feelings. We all know when you hold a handful of soil whether it is good or poor, even if you are not a gardener.
The world would be a better place if we let our gut feelings guide our actions more often. We instinctively know the answers to so many questions that if we made the right choices, would improve our environment. We need to let go and get back to nature more – perhaps the lockdowns of the last months, and the slowing down of the pace of life, will help us do that. And we will come out of this making better choices about what we do in business and for the environment.
Let’s get busy repairing the future.