Opinion Other

Is the other side dumb? A discussion about 'wilful blindness'

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A couple of weeks have passed since the world was shocked by Donald Trump's election win, and yet on social media you still see people expressing shock and disbelief at how this could possibly have happened.

Not long after Trump's win, I read an article by Sean Blanda entitled "The Other Side Is Not Dumb" which argues against the dangers of living in a so-called "echo chamber". The thing is, the concept of the echo chamber doesn't just apply to politics. What is worse is that when this echo chamber is applied to the workplace you end up with a team that is compromised.

In June this year I attended a conference in New York where one of the keynote speakers was Margaret Heffernan, a motivational speaker who spoke on the subject of "wilful blindness" - when we ignore the obvious because we simply don't want to believe it is true. Heffernan asks why we prefer ignorance over the truth. We saw it with Trump, we saw it with the collapse of conglomerates like Enron, and we see it in the workplace and in our day to day lives.

Recently I spoke to a friend who had started a new job and complained to me that his boss only hired friends to fill spaces in the team. The dangers of something like this is the same as falling into the echo chamber trap on social media. When we surround ourselves with people who only share our point of view, when we are wilfully blind to the possibility of being wrong, we compromise not only our integrity but the ability of ourselves and our team to do their job effectively. If we are not armed with all the options to guarantee our success, then we are more likely to fail. Diversity in opinion, experience and background provides us with the best set of resources.

Generally after I've played a game and written a review, I like to go back and read the reviews on Metacritic. In particular I like to read those reviews that do not align with my own. If I thought a game was amazing, I almost always go back and read the reviews that gave the game an average or negative score, and I always look at the User Review section. I always compare how the average user who doesn't write game reviews for a living, stacks up against the professional critics.

I do this because I like to get alternative view points and to see if there is something I missed. Something that perhaps I hadn't considered when I played through the game myself.

I do this because if I just look at the reviews that share my point of view, then we all become fans that don't allow for a difference in opinion. We think the other side is dumb.

In the same way I feel that developers, publishers and distributors (particularly the first ones) shouldn't always seek glowing reviews. We all like to win awards and hear how wonderful our work is, but if everyone just tells us how awesome we are they neglect to tell us how we can improve. You should always strive to improve, to make things better, to adapt and change to the requirements of the market in which you exist.

A good example of "the Other Side" is the PlayStation 4, Xbox One fanboy/girl argument. I saw comments on an article about the PlayStation Pro the other day and there were people making derogatory comments about owners of whichever console it was that they didn't possess. My first thought was, "People are still arguing about this?"

One of the business values of the company I work for is Accountability. With a capital A. You must be accountable for your wins, but also for your failures. You must take responsibility for your career development, for your contribution to the business, for your actions. It's always hard to admit when you messed up - especially to your boss - and I've done this before so I know! If you're able to admit that you could have done something better however, then this is how you grow and learn and become better at what you do.

If you blindly blinker yourself to contrary opinions and hide behind the blame game, then you will always think the other side is dumb and never gain a wider perspective.

Yes, it might be frustrating. We all like to work with people who agree with us. We all like to live in what my friends call, "the Bubble". Who wouldn't want to live in the comfortable bubble where we're always right and people always agree with us? This is bad however. We need to break free of the Bubble, even if it's only for a moment to gain perspective.

(Cover image credit: Andreas Georghiou)

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