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Unlearning Lesson #20: Mix Up Your Mind

Posted in Unlearning

The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above the water.” –Sigmund Freud

Question #20: According to the latest research, IQ accounts for what portion of career success?

e. 50 to 60 percent
f. 25 to 49 percent
g. 23 to 34 percent
h. 11 to 22 percent

The answer is between 4 and 10 percent. In other words, “none of the above.” This question comes compliments of Dan Pink who used it in his best-selling book, A Whole New Mind, to suggest the idea that confining oneself to the answers presented is “a symptom of excessive left-directed thinking.”

In order to unlearn, though, it is not enough to train yourself to use right brain-directed thinking—although this is helpful. A person or an organization must also intentionally mix-up their thinking in order to get a clearer picture of reality.

For example, did you know that if a person scores low on an IQ test they are likely to spend more time reading articles which refute the validity of the IQ test. The reason is because once an outcome has been determined and the experience can no longer be changed, people look for ways to change their view of the experience.

The same is true with the stocks we buy, the cars we purchase, and the schools we send our children. In each case, after the fact, people prefer finding information confirming—rather than refuting—their decision. This process might make them feel better but it is unlikely to lead to better decisions in the future.

What then is a person to do? One strategy is to mix-up your thinking. Specifically, look for information that contradicts your interpretation of the situation, consider the situation from multiple viewpoints, or actively solicit input from people with a different perspective.

Google and Proctor & Gamble are a good example. In the past, the companies swapped two dozen key employees. For its part, Google was interested in winning over a larger portion of P&G’s $9 billion annual advertising budget, while P&G was concerned only a small fraction of its advertisement budget was being spent online and it wanted to better understand the Internet’s potential.

The intentional mixing of the two cultures allowed each company the opportunity to see their business—as well as future opportunities—in a different and, perhaps, clearer light by forcing employees to challenge key assumptions about how they viewed the business environment. P&G, for example, wasn’t inviting influential bloggers to attend press conferences for the roll-out of new products, and Google didn’t fully appreciate how important colors were to building brand image.

Mixing up your mind need not always involve others. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing your mind-set. In an influential study, Ellen Langer studied 84 women who cleaned hotel rooms. One group of women heard a brief presentation explaining how their work qualified as good exercise. The other group did not. The two groups then continued on with their regular work routine. Surprisingly, the group that heard the presentation displayed more weight loss and experienced larger declines in blood pressure. In short, they became healthier by virtue of nothing more than a change of perspective. A related study using retired male executives yielded similar results.

Langer’s studies and the Google-P&G employee swap are tangible reminders that if you are serious about seeking new insights and achieving better results you don’t need a high IQ, all you need to do is “mix up your mind.”

Homework assignment #20: Locate a regular optometrist’s eye chart which begins with the largest letter on top. Test your vision. Make note of the last line you could read. Next, locate an eye chart that begins with the smallest print on top. Make note of the last line you can read. Did your results improve?

P.S. If you would like to read 38 additional “unlearning lessons,” consider picking up a copy of my new book, Higher Unlearning: 39 Post-Requisite Lessons for Achieving a Successful Future. The eBook is now only $2.99!

Interested in some other free “unlearning” lessons? Check out these older posts:

Unlearning Lesson #19: Grow From Your Inexperiences

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