What a doomsday cult can teach us about our ability to admit we’re wrong

One of my favourite stories is the birth of cognitive dissonance. The science of human beings’ inability to admit they are wrong. It’s a story of a 1950s cult called the Seekers led by a lady called Dorothy Martin who had the ability to channel communications from an alien race known as the Guardians. The Guardians had told her that the world was about to be wiped out in a flood but they were prepared to come and rescue some humans.

Doomsday cults tend to be…


The balancing act of intelligent progress

I was asked recently how I balance having time to think things through and getting things done. This is easy right now as I have a lot of time to write which means I can bias more towards thinking things through. My writing process has always involved a period of contemplation before I get started. I like to consider things from multiple angles because I think that you can increase the tractability of problems if you look at them from the right direction. …


A brief overview of dysfunctional pathologies

A long time ago I was having a conversation with my team over lunch about psychopaths and sociopaths. I was trying to explain the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. The way I phrased it was that a psychopath would disembowel a dog because they wanted to exercise power and enjoyed the dog’s suffering. A sociopath would do it because they were bored and wanted to know what the inside of a dog looked like. On the way back from lunch we got in the elevator to go back to the ground floor…


The question leaders need to keep asking themselves

Things are going badly. Things aren’t getting done. When they are done they’re delivered late or with poor quality or outcomes. The world is on fire.

or

Everything is great. Things are getting done. Everyone is astounded at the impact your teams are having. It’s one long champagne moment.

Do either of these sound like your world right now. It turns out whether either of those is you that you need to be asking yourself the same question. Neither state of affairs is permanent and your team needs the same things from…


You’ve got a wild ride ahead. Here are 10 things that might help you along the journey

The good thing about being (sort of) retired is I have a lot of time to reflect on things. With that reflection comes the realisation there is more behind me than is ahead of me. It’s tempting to wonder what might have been. The relationships I could have had or saved. The jobs I messed up. The times everything went wrong. This morning I had this kind of deep reflection as I went for a walk and tried to figure out how I’d…


Why failing to understand the fundamental nature of things can turn out badly

A man was at the zoo one day. He came across a cage containing a tiger. What a magnificent animal, he thought, I would very much like to have my photograph taken with it for my Instagram page. So he climbed the outside of the cage, ignoring the shouts of alarm from other zoo-goers. When he dropped into the cage the tiger bounded over and killed him. A little later the man arrived in heaven and asked St Peter “Why did the tiger kill me? All I…


Why we don’t have the checks and balance in place to enable it

After I last wrote about how big tech and media can be used to undermine democracy I had an interesting conversation with someone who has a different starting point of view to me. Their take was very much that big tech needed to be completely neutral. The examples they cited were Twitter’s recent labelling of some of the current President’s tweets as lacking in factual basis. It reminded me of how differently we, as humans, can interpret the same seemingly unambiguous information.

As well as the blind spots we all have for processing information there are four fundamental problems with…


A handbook for how to sow division in a technologically advanced society

I thought long and hard about the ethics of writing this piece as I don’t want to arm people with tools to do harm. Then I looked at the state my country (and others) currently in and realised that the bad guys are already running this playbook. One of the reasons they’re finding it so easy is that there’s a general lack of awareness of just how vulnerable we are. Back in 200, I sat in a room with a friend of mine and we debated various ideas for startups. One of my ideas was a system to control public…


Navigating the tricky path between autonomy and standardisation

Recently I was talking to the CEO and CTO of a company and they asked me whether they should standardise on a single tech stack or have diverse stacks. It was pretty clear their preference was to standardise and minimise duplication of effort. On the surface this seems like a good idea. I’ve also had very heated conversations with engineering teams who are prepared to relinquish their favourite language or stack when you pry it from their cold dead hands.

This is a common disconnect for leadership and engineering teams. It comes…


How it’s so easy for people to see through people who don’t actually care

This article is going to be a bit ranty. And maybe a bit hypocritical. After all, I’ve stood in front of a room full of people and shared personal history through tears. But recently I’ve seen increasing incidences of senior people looking to tick the box of vulnerability or compassion because that’s what the books they are reading and the TED talks they are watching tell them to do.

Being vulnerable increases psychological safety. Brené Brown tells us that we need to show our vulnerability in front of people. This is true — as long as we mean it. If…

Andy Walker

Ex-Google, ex-Netscape, ex-Skyscanner. Interested in solving complex problems without complexity and self sustaining self improving organisations.

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