Matt Miller on the Psychology of Dead Ideas

Question: Why do we cling to outmoded ways of thinking?

Miller:    I’m as prone as anybody to slip into dead ideas.  I think in my, you know, in my own professional life, I cling to the idea that rational analysis can, you know, can lead to constructive change which is why I write books like this.  And if you read in the history, it’s not clear that was ever that live an idea to begin with, so I’m not holding myself out as, you know, having liver ideas now.  But I do think you really need to, and this is true for people as well as for organizations and for societies, you need to find a way to kind of institutionalize a skepticism about the prevailing wisdom, and, you know, in lots of organizations, that can be a career enders.  So there’s lots of built-in incentives to sort of go along and go with the group think and we know that’s true in government, we know it’s true in business, it’s true in non-profits.  And so, I think especially in an era when experts tell us we’re going to more changes as a society in the next 30 years that we may have seen in the last 300.  In this kind of period of accelerated change, dead ideas are really an occupational hazard for everyone, and so we need to make greater efforts all way around to make room for the skepticism, for the court jester, if you will, someone who can just ask the dumb questions that really often end up being the profound ones.

Matt Miller on incubating skepticism.

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