Saturday, 9 April 2011

Lesson four - Jedi mind tricks to amuse your friends and influence people.

Set the scene - Outskirts of Mos Eisley. Imperial checkpoint. You and your stormtrooper clone buddies have just pulled up a speeder with a young boy, an old man and two droids on board. By coincidence, you are looking for two droids just like these ones. Nevertheless, you both know these are not the droids you are looking for and tell them to move along. What a nice old man...

For some tasks there are better ways than human judgement alone, particularly if an individual's ability to evaluate results based on experience is lacking or biased. Sometimes this can be addressed through engineered solutions that automatically decide for us. A smoke detector takes all the guesswork out of deciding if you can smell smoke or not.

Information as evidence is neutral. It's just raw data. Human interpretation of information is subjective. The questions we ask and our reaction to the answers presented by the data determine the outcome. Occasionally, we choose to ignore the evidence that doesn't fit what we want to see.

This week's video is a case in point. I sought something to illustrate the scene I wanted to examine. I went to YouTube and entered "These are not the droids you are looking for". I got a number of responses, including the original scene, plus a number of parodies. My experience allowed me to tell which was which and from there select what I thought was appropriate.

What if I had never seen Star Wars? How would I know what to choose? Could YouTube choose for me? No, not really.
Being able to impartially evaluate unfamiliar information should be a basic skill. It also needs to be methodical and the techniques should be commonplace. That's why I was pleased to see Edward De Bono's Six Hats methodology being used in a local primary school. Critics point out the hats are silly and the process is longwinded and it can feel that way initially. Practitioners will point out that it becomes more intuitive with time and the actual hats are just symbolic. What matters is that the tool gives anyone a reasonable chance of making better decisions more consistently, even if they don't have a great deal of life experience.

This is critical in a business context. Too often, we assume that if we just dump all our data somewhere there will be someone with an overview that can advise us. In a typical office that may be the administrative assistant, office manager or that person who was with the company before television was invented. Let's hope they never go on leave or retire right?

For the record, my resolution for this scene would have been to shoot all droids matching the description on sight and then sort out the mess later...

And as a parting gift this week, here is another mind tricks video

Trooper - College Humour 

Next stop - The Cantina...

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