There are many situations in organization and corporate life when either the collective or others with authority solve our decision problems. They made the decisions for us. Even when we may have contributed in the process, our decision power is not needed anymore. That may be, is, natural. However, it nurtures an unconscious abdication of our thinking.
Our minds say: don’t think about it too much, the decision will me made elsewhere. This is of course a caricature, an exaggeration. But nonetheless a possible pattern to be aware of.
‘The team’ making the decision prompts us to nurture a partial or total abdication of our personal thinking. The budget cuts solve the problem of some difficult choices. I can’t do some things anymore, I don’t have to choose, the difficulty is gone. Yes, sure, I am told that this is an opportunity to be smart and see where and how to spend the money. But it isn’t in fact. In reality I can abdicate further thinking, my thinking, to the CFO.
In fact, may other situations integrate an element of ‘required abdication’ as part of normal organizational life. Nothing intrinsically wrong, but often subtle, or hidden, or unconscious abdication. The structure given to me, the norms and borders established, the unwritten rules, of course, ‘gates and stage’ safeguards, decision rights and thresholds, escalation of decisions, the outputs from leadership teams, etc.
Hardly a list of negative elements. But the point is still valid, and the question still annoying: how much of the thinking has been done elsewhere for me, how much of my thinking is required or further required, how much of these mechanisms around me are teaching me (largely unconsciously) how to abdicate my thinking.
It’s perhaps easy to dismiss this, perhaps a counter intuitive idea, but it’s worth not abdicating this one. You see, homo sapien, has a high regard for himself. He thinks he is always in charge and his brilliant thinking is always exercised and free. The problem is that other homo sapiens around him think the same and the collective create an illusion of self-control.
Progressively they, those homo sapiens, have created a defensive, protective, survival mechanism expressed in this way: oh! I don’t need to worry about this; there is nothing I can do about that. And the sum of all ‘I don’t need to worry about this; there is nothing I can do about that’ provides a perfect safeguard cushion that does the trick.
Of course this is good! Imagine the alternative! But many mental fallacies and cognitive biases are also good. In small doses, they protect us and serve us providing valid shortcuts that save us from always exploring all possibilities leading to brain exhaustion. Every time that we use a bit of healthy cognitive dissonance, for example (‘never mind, I missed the bus, I would have arrived at the shops too early when there are too many people’) we are protecting ourselves. But, if following the above example, we learn to live in a Never Mind Land, a comfortable Kidding Yourself Land, then we are in pretty artificial territory.
Again, the healthy question I think we should ask ourselves is how much we are abdicating our thinking on a daily basis? Just asking the question may turn up to be invigorating.