A Healthy Slow
A recent Wall Street Journal article notes how companies like Visa are trying to be innovative by turning away from outside consultants to in-house engineers. As we make the rounds, the indications are: this is not the way to go.
A few years back, psychologist Paul Rozin and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania ran a test where participants were asked to put labels on two identical bowls of sugar (“sucrose” or “sodium cyanide” [poison]). After labeling the bowls, most participants were reluctant to use sugar from the one that they had labeled poison. Their intuition was so powerful that it guided what they knew was irrational behavior.
Daniel Kahneman described this tendency in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” We have two modes of processing information. A “fast system” is intuitive and quickly generates impressions and judgments. A “slow system” operates in a deliberate manner. It is responsible for overriding the fast system when it detects an error. But Rozin’s work indicates the slow system doesn’t always behave this way.
When people pause to reflect on the fact that their superstitious intuitions are irrational, the slow system can actually persist in its belief. Detecting an error does not necessarily lead people to correct it. Worse, sometimes the slow system exacerbates the problem by doubling down on its error, generating reasons for its behavior. The problem is the individual (or company) is trying to operate “slow” and “fast” systems without the aid of an outside voice.
We do indeed have a “dual system” to detect and correct errors. But Iain McGilchrist’s research (“The Master and His Emissary”) reminds us that when individuals assume they can, on their own, operate both equally well, they’re mistaken. Same goes for companies. When organizations assume they can detect and correct errors with only in-house folks, they’re mistaken. It’s indicative of how the left hemisphere thinks, however. It tends to be unduly confident in its assessments and resistant to correction. Scripture says wisdom requires many counselors, outside voices. They’re the better “slow system.” Innovation is more likely when in-house leaders collaborate with outside consultants.
Mike Metzger posts on DoggieHeadTilt.