Minter Dialogue with Ross Dawson
Ross Dawson is globally recognized as a leading futurist, keynote speaker, strategy advisor, bestselling author, and entrepreneur. He is Founding Chairman of the Advanced Human Technologies Group of companies and Founder of Bondi Innovation. Previous books include the acclaimed book “Living Networks,” which The New York Times credits with predicting the social networking revolution, and the bestseller “Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships.” His latest book is “Thriving on Overload: The 5 Powers for Success in a World of Exponential Information.” We discuss the challenge of dealing with so much information, converting information into knowledge, encouraging stimulating strategic conversations at work, splicing through the signal to noise ratio, fact checking, and how to thrive as a generalist versus a subject-matter expert.
Please send me your questions — as an audio file if you’d like — to email@example.com. Otherwise, below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to rate it here.
To connect with Ross Dawson:
- Check out Ross’ hub website: RossDawson.com
- Find/follow Ross Dawson on Twitter
- Find/follow Ross Dawson on LinkedIn
- Amplifying Cognition: amplifyingcognition.com
Other sites referenced during the show:
- Herbert Simon – Nobel Prize winner for Economics – https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/economic-sciences/1978/simon/facts/
- Alan Watts The Way of Zen – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Way-Zen-Alan-W-Watts/dp/1846046904
- Open by default – Atlassian https://www.atlassian.com/
- Karl Weick – Making Sense of the Organization https://www.waterstones.com/book/making-sense-of-the-organization/karl-e-weick/9780631223191
- Kees van der Heijden Sensemaking https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scenarios-Conversation-Kees-Van-Heijden/dp/0470023686
- Dr Colin Eden – On mental models (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/sdr.4260100212)
- Power of Letting Go – John Purkiss https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Letting-Go-everything-holding/dp/1783253630/
Further resources for the Minter Dialogue podcast:
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Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign-off music is “A Convinced Man,” a song I co-wrote and recorded with Stephanie Singer back in the late 1980s (please excuse the quality of the sound!).
Ross Dawson Transcript via Otter.ai
SUMMARY KEYWORDS: information, people, overload, work, knowledge, book, ross, thriving, mental models, thinking, decisions, futurist, ideas, suppose, conversations, zen, organization, generalist, intuition, organizational context
SPEAKERS: Ross Dawson (66%), Minter Dial (34%)
Minter Dial 0:05
Hello and welcome to Minter Dialogue episode number 534. My name is Minter Dial and I’m your host for this podcast, a proud member of the Evergreen Podcast Network. For more information or to check out other shows on this network, please go and visit evergreen podcasts.com First, got a shout out and thanks for putting up a five-star review for the show on Apple podcasts by AC3snow: much appreciated! So this week’s interviews with Ross Dawson. Ross is globally recognized as leading futurist, keynote speaker, strategy advisor, Best Selling Author and entrepreneur. He is founding chairman of the advanced human Technologies Group of Companies and founder Bondi innovation. Ross’s previous books include the acclaimed book, Living networks, which the New York Times credits with predicting the social networking revolution, as well as the best seller developing knowledge based client relationships. His latest book is thriving on overload. The five powers for success in a world of exponential information we discussed with Ross the challenge of dealing with so much information, converting information into knowledge, encouraging stimulating strategic conversations at work, splicing through the signal to noise ratio, fact checking, and how to thrive as a generalist versus a subject matter expert. You’ll find all the shownotes on Minter dial.com. And if you have a weak moment, go over and drop in a rating and review. And don’t forget to subscribe to catch all the future episodes. Now for the show. Ross Dawson, tremendous to have you on my show from Down Under. In your own words, Ross had died to describe yourself who is Ross Dawson?
Ross Dawson 1:59
Well, we have labels for ourselves and the labels which are usually attached to myself, futurist keynote speaker, entrepreneur and author, which is quite a few. But those are the sort of the descriptors I suppose of what I do.
Minter Dial 2:15
I somehow feel that they go together because you know, one helps the other right?
Ross Dawson 2:20
Yeah, well, ultimately, it’s around thinking and communicating. You know, I, my I’m a professional communicator in the broadest sense with words, mainly, those are some visuals. And in order to have a job communicating, you’ve got to think things which are a little bit different from other people. So suppose my job is thinking a bit differently and communicating, hopefully with impact.
Minter Dial 2:42
So the bulk of what I wanted to talk about yesterday was Ross, having met you and heard you when you came to London, was to is to talk about your new book thriving on overload the five powers for success in a world of exponential information. Let’s start with I mean, obviously, you’ve written many books. But why this book? What what’s the context within which you’ve decided to write this book?
Ross Dawson 3:07
So there’s two answers to that question. One is that in the 90s, in the mid 90s, when I left the corporate world and started doing my own thing, that’s what I that was the first thing that I landed on, in a way I was so knowledge management was a emerging topic at the time, I said, Wow, what a great idea. It’s, you know, knowledge is something which we need to manage and think about. And, but what it struck me is that everyone was focusing on organizations. And really, the big gap was on how individuals can make sense of a world of unlimited information. So I just come out of financial services. So I’ve been in financial markets and capital markets, and where there’s a lot of information and hopefully, you know, people are trying to make better decisions. And part of my role is helping to provide information in ways that were useful, that to make better decisions. And the education is there, the companies weren’t teaching people, universities weren’t teaching people schools aren’t teaching people. So those that are good at being able to take on information and make sense of it really worked it out for themselves. And so that was something I’ve been passionate about through my life, as I describe myself as an info file, lover of information, and be able to create value with it. And so as a futurist, that is, in a way precisely the job, you have to scan through all of the changes in the world and try to make sense of those in a way that hopefully you can anticipate things and communicate that effectively. So this is a long journey where you know, I was literally I wrote down the Thrive the phrase thriving on information overload back in 1997, or something and I was built some frameworks which are actually quite similar to what I’ve developed. So It’s just something I’ve believed in for a long time is something really important.
Minter Dial 5:05
It strikes me that there’s a parallel cousin to this problem, which is the overload of communications. Obviously, you can get your RSS feeds and the things that you’re being sent. But the issue is also that we are overloaded with communications, we get, you know, Skype messages, ping messages, this and that everywhere coming in. And I see a lot of people overloaded with that as well, what’s your take on that?
Ross Dawson 5:36
Well back, you know, again, from back of the 90s, what I, the way I put it is that we have additional communication channels that don’t replace but add to the communication channels we’ve had. So well, let us probably don’t have a whole lot of, but we still get things at the best. And we’ve got documents, we’ve got emails, we’ve got new social medias as others. Now we’ve got our slacks and we’ve got our WhatsApps. So these are additional channels. So this is absolutely part of the overload is this channel of load, not just even how much information is within each. And essentially, we do need to be making choices. And one of the things for example, in an organizational context or in an individual context, is to be very clear in communicating to other people, what channels you want to be communicated to on. And that’s because if you just say, Okay, I’ve got you can get access to me through all of these different channels, that starts to mean, you’ve got to check all of these channels, and you can simply cut some of them off, or try and redirect them or just say, Okay, these are the ones I will spend time on. But this is very important is communicating to others. Clearly, this is how I want to be communicated to, because that works for me. Well, I mean, I
Minter Dial 6:51
suppose the challenge is the other way around. I mean, if you’re trying to reach somebody, for example, that you want to prospect or something well, on What channels do they communicate, and you have to adapt yourself to them?
Ross Dawson 7:06
Absolutely. And that’s so there’s this issue of touching people or reaching people and as a prospect, I think, because is one thing or another is just, you know, value collaboration raised to be able to reach people. And I mean, it’s interesting to me is that the emails becoming more and more closely guarded. And so, you know, venture capitalists will never give out their email. Now off of various other guises. We can sort of be in a Twitter stream or whatever. And those people are overloaded as saying, Okay, well, email is where I only share that with people I, yeah, I want to be contacted with. And, you know, and also they’re, they’re also potentially unhappy when people share their emails around that. And so they might be open to being touched in other ways. So it’s also you don’t want to necessarily barge into people’s channels. You know, there’s this as you say, there is this two-way thing of saying, Well, what channels might they see? Or what channels might they feel are ones they want to be respected, and not be done. And I think there’s a lot of people who get offended when people send them blind emails, when they haven’t been given permission to contact them. Whereas they might be open to sort of other channels to having something where they can reach out if they feel like doing that.
Minter Dial 8:36
I have the same kind of vibe in my mind with regard to people on LinkedIn, for example, for connect, wanting to connect with me connection requests. Hey, Minter, I’d like to be part of your network. Uh, huh. Yeah, I mean, you being an influencer in this domain, how do you how do you react to that?
Ross Dawson 8:58
So there was actually a long time. So I was one of the first 10,000 people in the world on LinkedIn. And I was just, you know, exploring social networks. And I got on and, and for a long time, I actually did very little with it. And, in fact, when I was approached by people, I didn’t know I respond to saying, Why do you want to connect? But that becomes that becomes too time consuming. So basically, I just, I do filter through and I just get a sense of, are they trying to sell me something? Or is there somebody I want to be connected with? And so you know, just filter out that way. And it’s an actually I’ve, there is some similarity now to LinkedIn today for me with Twitter in the early days, where I met an extraordinary number of incredible people on Twitter, in the early days of Twitter, that was it was amazing way of connecting and looked at actually is offering some really interesting new connections to me, which better yet come across in different ways. You know, I want to be open to these Interesting people who are engaged with what I’m doing are reaching out. It’s not something you want to turn down.
Minter Dial 10:06
At the same time. There are many interesting people in the world and back to the subject of your book. It’s like, well, if I got in touch with every interesting person in the world, while I would have no time for my wife, my family, because there’s an endless amount of interesting people out there, presumably, especially if you have an open mind.
Ross Dawson 10:29
Yes, and it’s so this is, you know, the wonderful thing of openness. Yeah, we need to be open to experience, we need to be open to ideas, we need to be open perspective. But if we’re at a certain point, that we inevitably get too overwhelming to overload. And this is this delicate balance, where we absolutely don’t want to be too closed. Because then, you know, we’ve got blinders on, when we’re not seeing what’s going on, we’re gonna think
Minter Dial 10:55
kind of old grumpy men,
Ross Dawson 10:58
or women. But the, the, so this is part of the, you know, we need to this is, I mean, we find this never balance, I think, you know, this idea of balance is impossible, illusory. But you need to be somewhere where you are, you know, generally not too far, one way or the other and where you have an openness, but without where you have your boundaries as well. And it’s, I think it’s easy for us to navigate, I don’t think you can have hard and fast rules. You can have some guidelines and parameters. If someone reaches out to me, this is what I will say yes or no to as a starting point. But I think there’s just a general feel, or yes, this is somebody I feel like having a conversation with and there’s not a lot of people, but someone to say, Yeah, I’d be very interested to have a conversation and get some new ideas and so on.
Minter Dial 11:52
Why I suppose the like you say it takes work to plow through a profile, they just click the button connection request? No, no note added. I think there’s a bunch of laziness in there. And I The other thing, I think it’s interesting to find this not balanced, but to, let’s say, put parameters that allow us to navigate through is to understand your intention and ambition as well, if you if and I think is basically one of the fundamental messages of your book is know what you’re up to know yourself better, and then you’re going to be better able to navigate strategically through the overload.
Ross Dawson 12:33
Absolutely. And that so that’s, you know, the first of the five powers and the five chapters is purpose, which, you know, as I point out is a very difficult thing. And I think there’s very few people can say, this is my purpose, I know my purpose in life, or, you know, and hopefully we have some kind of a vague idea, at least, you know, and we’re continuing to work on that. So this does require introspection, it does require knowing ourselves, it does require being able to explore and to discover, well, this is something Yes, I am even more passionate about than I might have thought or discover these amazing things, or no, this is not directions I want to go. So we need to explore, to discover ourselves. And this is, you know, this comes this reinforcing cycle of exploration as a way of discovering yourself to know what it is you want to find a way to spend your time with. And that that’s in a way you know, the nature of life.
Minter Dial 13:31
It certainly is when you’re young, you know, you don’t know stuff. So you’ve got to go out there and try stuff and throw the spaghetti on the wall, see what sticks. One of the things you talk about, and something I certainly I’ve lived myself is the notion of having multiple expertises or multiple areas of passion interest, as opposed to being a T-shaped where you have one specific zone of deep knowledge. You talk about having multiple eras, I refer to it as being the comb version, where you have lots of teeth in the comb. Tell us about that. And how do you when do you stop the teeth teething so to speak.
Ross Dawson 14:15
It’s being a generalist is a very tough gig. And so I think to become a generalist, you have to start by having at least one area of specialization you need. If you’re shallow everywhere. That’s not a generalist
Minter Dial 14:31
doesn’t sound any compliment, you’re shallow everywhere.
Ross Dawson 14:37
So and so it takes time in a way to say okay, here’s one stake in the ground. I’m gonna delve deep on this as another one which is complimentary to that where I can dig deep and so I’ve you know, I’ve had the time over a fairly long career now, to dig in quite deep into to a number of different means and now as, over time, these are, the links between those become more and more evident when that’s part of my role as the futurist is because I have gone deep into quite a few fairly fundamental aspects of the world and how it works, to be able to piece that together. So I think everyone aspires to be the generalist, and I think there’s an incredible value to being a generalist, you know, as you say, the t shirt means you have some kind of context, at least whatever your depth is. And I think we do need to be quite clear around saying, this is an area where I will dive deep, and, you know, force yourself to dive deep by, for example, taking, you know, some formal or informal studies, you know, and so, you know, there are times when I’ve said, Well, I think you know, about this, but actually, let’s let me do, you know, go to you go to a university course. And in fact, you know, you kind of say, well, actually, no, I didn’t know quite as much as I thought I did. Because you you’ve been forced to, to actually dive deep. And I think sometimes people that feel themselves to be specialists. At times, not always our sort of, don’t necessarily have as deep grounding as they could, or they should.
Minter Dial 16:23
Yeah, it’s, it speaks to two things for me that one is curiosity, the curiosity to want to continue to learn to believe that you never will know everything, and the more you know, something, the more you know, you don’t know something. And then there’s the humility to, to, to, to allow for the impregnation of what you’re hearing, as opposed to buffing it off as well, I already knew that, of course. But sometimes it takes a little bit more grinding out, to go down to the understanding the bigger Why’s the bigger ways that things are moving?
Ross Dawson 16:58
Absolutely. And I think that that’s to truly be the specialists that truly have the depth, you have to keep on digging. And that’s, there’s a quote I just read from one of the great scientists of the last century, that is essentially saying, you have to know an immense amount before you realize how much you don’t know. And that’s that
Minter Dial 17:27
the more you know, the more you know, you don’t know, that’s the same underlying thought. Alright, let’s talk about knowledge. Obviously, you know, in French, we break it down in different ways with goodness sauce and savoir the how to do and sort of understanding of things. Your definition of knowledge struck me as very interesting and different than what I expected. In the context, I think, for this question is that I see a lot of people without knowledge, talking about things, talking about it from a position of feelings rather than knowledge and facts. So your definition of knowledge, in the book you write knowledge is the capacity to act effectively. And I was there the part that was interesting for me was this to act effectively, as opposed to all the capacity, and you don’t even mention really the idea of knowledge per Oh, sorry, information underneath it, the conversion of information into knowledge. So unpack that for us.
Ross Dawson 18:31
So that definition actually comes from my first book in 2000, developing knowledge, client relationships, and where, you know, there’s lots of discussions around the classic data information knowledge, wisdom, stack, and what’s the distinction between knowledge and information data. And for me, knowledge is required as an understanding of a domain, which means I think that ability to act is fundamental. It’s making decisions when you make a decision, you have a context in your belief that that action will result more likely to result in something you do want, and something you don’t want. And those people that are able to make better decisions are the ones definitely you know, have knowledge of the domain, they they have the understanding of the context and the references and the this gestalt of understanding that domain, in order to make the decision to act in ways which lead to what it is that they want. And one of the key points for me is that knowledge is implicitly a semantic network. It is a connection in our brains of ideas and concepts. And in every brain, it is unique, how we are connecting all of these ideas and the thoughts and the formation of knowledge is basically taking in information and experiences and forming our own more rule from those of how everything fits together how these reference points or data points actually make sense in understanding a domain. So you can know that if this action happens, that is most likely to result in that outcome. And with some degree of validity, as opposed to just being, you know, based on feelings as you suggest, you know, I feel that I might want to do that. And if that is based on that intuition, which is essentially, you know, the subconscious representation of previous experience, that can be effective, but start feeling sometimes can be, you know, not in fact, that bringing together of experience, but more an emotional response, for example.
Minter Dial 20:51
So the rigorous person in me wherever he or she lies, as I looked down for it is, is wondering about the role of intuition in knowledge? You’re how do you how do you? How do you gauge your intuition, to the extent that it’s some unknown quantity within you, based on the experiences that you’ve had unknown in the sense, it’s hard to put your finger on it, it’s, it’s something that’s a little bit amorphous, a little bit abstract?
Ross Dawson 21:23
Well, essentially, in the quality of your decisions. So of course, the seminal work on intuition was done by Herbert Simon, won the Nobel Prize in psychology, economics, actually. And so he’s looked extensively at decision making, and a lot of his work, you know, very famous work was with chess, Grand Masters, and their ability to essentially use the gestalt of their experience everything wish they had all the previous games they had played in order to be able to know what the best move was. And so, speed chess, so when a chess grandmaster plays against 30 Different people at the same time, there isn’t the ability to rationally decide what the best move is, you see the board and you feel what the right move is. And if you can win against 30 competent people, then that demonstrates that your intuition is good. Yours is not a rational thought in terms of thinking through all the possible moves, you are intuiting from the all of your experience over time, what the best move is, that’s the only way you can play at that pace. So the analog is just saying, Alright, we have an executive in a complex decision making situation. And the way to judge their intuition is their gut feel good can only be based on the effectiveness of their decisions.
Minter Dial 22:53
was funny, when you use the word board, my mind slipped into board of directors, as opposed to a chess board. That was thinking about the parallels there. So one of the you talk about a forceful prediction, does design to stimulate strategic conversation, because the end of the day, let’s say we’re acting as a board, and we are wanting to be strategic, you talk about these ideas of strategic conversations. And it from my experience, it was all too frequently not brought to the table, these ideas, strategic conversations, how do you what’s in your way, seeing how managers should be bringing more of these types of conversations into the big meetings?
Ross Dawson 23:46
The so, you may be familiar with the book scenarios by case Vander Heiden I am not noted. It’s an it’s an old book now. It’s actually I think it dates from the 90s. But it’s still a wonderful book, which is and it’s hard, it’s about strategic conversation. You know, whilst the title of the book is scenarios, it is about how it is we elicit strategic conversations and one of them is to pose hypotheses and to uncover the implicit mental models. There’s also some wonderful work done by Colin Aiden, and colleagues who was at the University of Strathclyde before he retired, and what they were doing was using cognitive maps to elicit the essentially the mental models of the people in executive teams in order to be able to align them so that’s really central to my interests. Is it I suppose this there are different structures and mechanisms to how we can do that. So if we have a group, be it a board of directors or an executive team or some other relatively compact team for actually get them individually and collectively to make their thinking make their mental models explicit, which helps them to clarify their own thinking. And also to uncover where it is that there are differences in those underlying mental models and ones, where would you enable to then have a truly valuable strategic conversation? Because my experience says that in many boards and executive teams, you have people talking at each other, from different implicit mental models, which essentially means that you get an impulse you don’t, you don’t get a integration of those mental models, which then can create something which enables a better decision than either of the individuals working together. And so these are the kinds of conversations need to have to really have true strategic conversation saying, Why do you think that? What is the underlying things? And to pull down into what are the assumptions? What are the Why do you think that this leads to that? What and I think that eliciting these mental models is, in fact, extraordinarily valuable to any individual. Because I think what we the way we think is not visible through ourselves, usually. And this starts to then elucidate our own ways of thinking in ways that we can then align our thinking in between, you know, groups, in effective ways.
Minter Dial 26:29
Yeah, this speaks to me, obviously, I’m writing a new book about conversation. And I talked about the you-me-us principle, where you have your mental model, I have mine. And the key is to understand what is it about us that we’re trying to mutually go towards. And I think that one of the biggest challenges in so many cases is there’s no well-defined us, this can be broken down into the issues of politics in at home, or, you know, with friends, and it can be also applied to nations are going to be applied to companies. So you’re sitting across from you’re the director of some other department, and you get into some kind of quibble or discord. But there’s nothing that unites us at a meta level, to show that we both need to get through this and listen to one another and then collaborate towards something bigger, I suppose what do you how do you react to that?
Ross Dawson 27:33
The Well, let’s, you know, I suppose one of the frames around out is simply purpose is aligning purpose, aligning values. So that’s, these are more common exercises, within executive teams, and they are really fundamental, you know, why are we doing what? Why are we doing anything at all? And why does this organization exists? And that starting point of aligning around purpose and values is a fundamental starting point. And I think, unfortunately, most organizations are sort of reasonably articulated that I mean, whether that articulation is close to the reality is a different question. But at least they you know, they are their articulations of that. And so that is the starting point, where you can then start from only from there, start to align your mental models and of you know, of the industry of your organization of how it’s can be successful in the future.
Minter Dial 28:33
Well, I’m you have optimistic viewpoint about how companies describe their purpose, I find it wholly lacking in most, most of the conversations and businesses I get to work with. When I, when you talk about having conversations in the boardroom, there is a inevitably a question of knowledge, and how much each one knows about the industry and what’s coming out. You also have intellectual property and knowledge that should be confidential. So how do you parse through that? When in this in this issue of overload,
Ross Dawson 29:15
organizational context or
Minter Dial 29:17
Well, yeah, as an individual, you’re running a company maybe and you have knowledge, what knowledge I mean, some companies are extremely guarded on the knowledge that they have, which makes it very thick and difficult to get through all the information. There’s because it’s parsed out, they specifically only want this team to know about this part of it. And this other team is supposed to know only about this. So there’s compartmentalizing the knowledge. And it becomes very complicated to understand or make it fluid on through the other end to accept external opinions or external information, though, I mean, I think of the tech companies in particular, of course,
Ross Dawson 30:00
Yes, well, when pulling back to the big picture, there’s really two ways to frame an organization, information open by default, or information closed by default. So, information closed by default, saying the only way, you know, the only way we will make this accessible is that you need to know it. Otherwise, it’s not available, as opposed to saying the only reason we will not make this available is that there is no legal reason or competitive reason or whatever. And so you’re Atlassian is one of a number of companies, which has the open by default policy, as in everything in the organization can be seen by anybody. Unless, you know, there’s, for example, a securities filing, which can’t be released before an investor investor event, for example, in which case, that shut down. And as you might expect, my sympathies are very much with the open by default, in terms of being able to create value is So that creates more information creates more access to information, but that allows, amongst other things, alignment on values, alignment on purpose, alignment, mental models, and in particular, for an organizational context to be able to take in information which is relevant to decision making, and to feed that in decisions. And so, you know, again, some older reference points, but Karl Weick, wrote around organizational sensemaking. And I think that there is a incredibly strong analog and individual brain, you know, an individual mind, what we do is we make sense of the world, you have information coming in, we make sense of that we form a mental model, we make decisions, there’s a, there’s a very, very strong analogue to an organization, which is immersed with information information comes into the organization, it makes sense of it in some implicit form, it makes decisions and acts as a result. Now, of course, the so what we’re trying to do essentially, is to make an organization an effective analog of a intelligent brain, a well performing brain, where if information signals come in externally, as in, oh, this competitor is doing something new, which we hadn’t even imagined, or this new technology could impact our distribution or whatever it may be. So the organization as a whole, every person in the organization is part of that sense, making apparatus apparatus, and can then bring that into, you know, essentially, the locus of decisions, be that the board executive team or broader group of people. So that is making effective decisions based on the fullest possible information. And that is simply not possible if you live in a closed by default organization.
Minter Dial 33:04
One, we’re living in a world which has all this information, we’re also living in a world that’s very divided. And so in just a personal side, you can quickly close off yourself talking about closed environment, to read the only the news that you want, because it satisfies what your sense making of the world is. And we’ve narrowed it means it seems to be sometimes our scope in how much we want to make sense of. And so if you’re in a business, you can also very quickly have the same challenge of, of, you know, this is what we’re doing, this is the only thing that we need to be figuring out and it can quickly lead to blind spots, when you when you create that sense making, if you get it wrong somehow or if you’re not able to adjust.
Ross Dawson 34:01
Yes. And so, this is where, yeah, we need to be flexible and adaptable. In a fast-changing world and as part of the you know, a lot more than my tagline for a lot of my work these days is in an accelerating world. So, both moving faster and faster. So, clearly, staying the same in a increasingly fast moving world is not going to work. So whether the unit be the individual or the team or the board or the organization or the nation or the city or whatever it may be this need to be able to be flexible to adapt to sense what are the meaningful changes and what are the useful responses to those is at the heart of being able to have any kind of success however, one to find success,
Minter Dial 34:56
the thriving component, I definitely get the feeling that For most of us, at least at our age, Ross, somehow, we got bundled into this without really proper training, whether it was the overflow of communications or the overflow of information. And so we’re always having to play catch up. Oh, there’s a new Telegram, oh, there’s a new RSS feed. Oh, there’s a new slack. And, and I think the vast majority of people, and it’s certainly the statistics seem to show up, there is an incredible amount of burnout, and people are suffering not thriving in this overload. So what words of wisdom would you provide for them?
Ross Dawson 35:44
In a way, this does come back to something which is very simple, you know, arguably trade, which is we have to let go, it is impossible to keep up. Except that, and it’s a lot easier said than done. Because, you know, we’re always trying to say, Well, I’m feeling behind, I don’t know, if I’m on top of things, I want to be able to, to know what’s happening. But we have to acknowledge we are limited. You know, even if we were to be away, you know, all of our waking hours dedicated to the relevant information, never stopping except to have the necessary sustenance, yeah, we still wouldn’t be able to do it. So we just have to be gracefully accept that there is only so much we can do. And to draw that line. And so that is a, you know, there is a motional courage in a way to be able to do that we cannot get to the thriving to from a point of just feeling we need to keep up. And so I frame this is from thriving to abundance. And this is the frame of saying, well, rather than saying, Okay, there’s fighting worse than I could ever possibly keep on top of will always be behind to saying, I have all of the information I could possibly want to achieve what I want, far more than ever before. So whatever it is I want to do. That information is available to me as never before. So it’s it does require this mindset shift. And as it is a lot easier said than done. But at the same time, there is actually nothing else we can do. Unless we change our attitude, we are going to inevitably be massively overwhelmed and overloaded.
Minter Dial 37:32
Well, so I wanted to cite a friend John Perkins, who wrote the power of letting go, if anyone wants to pursue that thought, if further down. And it brings up a topic you started talking about at the beginning of the book, which is the paradoxes, dealing with our paradoxes. And you cite the work done by Professor Myron-Spektor at INSEAD, about the paradoxical mindset. What for you, Ross is the biggest paradox that you face? Well,
Ross Dawson 38:02
well, the first one that comes to mind is what I’ve described to myself, is the paradox between Zen and creating the future. And so, in the world of Zen, the only thing that exists is the present, there is nothing else, the past doesn’t exist, the future doesn’t exist. There is only now. And we must live now, otherwise, we don’t live at all. So that is a paradox. When we say well, I want to work in order to be able to create something better for myself or my family, or the world or whatever. And that’s a future which might never happen, which is just my imagination. And right now, the only the omnipresent now. I am working hard to something which doesn’t exist. And that’s, that’s been something I’ve grappled with all my life. So I lived in a Zen dojo in Japan for a year and studied under Master there. And that’s it, I suppose, I don’t think I can well articulate it, but I think I have gained a better appreciation of it. So when you go in a Zen monastery, work is meditation. So if you’re in a monastery, or if you go on a Zen session, or sort of a focused meditation session, you sit in meditation for extended periods, and then you sweep up in the kitchen sweep up into the open areas, you chop things for kitchen, you clean up, and all of that work, all of the things we are doing are just as much meditation as the sitting. That’s your meditation is in the work. You’re being And then now is in your work. And that’s something again, which is easier to say to say than to truly appreciate. But I mean that I suppose that’s been my journey is to try to resolve that deep paradox because society is all based around progress, working toward tomorrow building our fortune, whatever and efficiencies, effectiveness. Yeah. And it takes most people away from the ever present now.
Minter Dial 40:34
And so I’m dying to ask Ross, what was the trigger that made you sign up for this zen experience in Japan?
Ross Dawson 40:43
Back? Well, I first read the Alan Watts books, the art of Zen and the way of doubt, my late teens, I suppose. And that sparked and I’ve read many, many, many books. In the subsequent years and thinking about that, and long story, I just ended up in Japan. And what am I, sorry, at what age? I was 29 when I landed in Japan, and there’s a whole lot. It’s a long story in its own right. But I quickly found Yeah, and that was one of the reasons I ended up in Japan has put someone else somewhere else was because of my interest. I found this Zen master who taught classes in English on Saturdays, and stayed on him. And then he had this basically, this Zen Center where English speaking people could live together in a Zen community. So I went to work still, as a financial journalist, and came back and did my community chores. And we all meditated at least twice a day. And, you know, listen to lectures, so it was being part of that community for for a year.
Minter Dial 42:04
Hmm. Well, I’m sure it contributed to help or it helped you to understand a little bit better who you were.
Ross Dawson 42:12
Yes, yes. It’s, there is no substitute for meditation. And meditation takes myriad forms. But our default mode network, or brain is always active, it’s always on in any way to be able to quiet that is the only way to really find a little bit more who you are. Otherwise, there’s this constant chatter.
Minter Dial 42:39
Yeah, in the in the paradox that you refer to being futurist and then living in the now, there’s also the past that, I mean, if you don’t know your history, then things will repeat. And like you’ve cited so many giants of the past, we’re always living on the shoulders of giants somehow, even as much as we want to think we’re original and smart, and all this. So that that even complicates worse is that you’ve got to understand or the past, somehow as well, or not in in this idea of sensemaking.
Ross Dawson 43:16
Yes, it’s, you know, again, we can never read all the books we want to read of all of the millions of amazing books that are being but we have that abundance, we have that available to us, you know, the incredible literature, incredible ideas and thinking from Yeah, from now backwards, we can use this as the foundations. And as you say, it’s all we’re always building what we have. That’s the nature of humanity. That’s the nature of progress, we have been able to capture our ideas and the best thinking and discover that and to use that. So that’s the these are the resources we have. And that’s part of the reason why we should most people should be spending more time on the long form content that has established demonstrated value, as opposed to most people who spend the majority of their time on ephemera, which tomorrow will be forgotten.
Minter Dial 44:17
Yeah, tick tock, or some unverified sources. I think it’s an important topic, especially the verification of the source of validation of your sources. And reading a book that’s been self-published sometimes can bring up the questionable-ness of the validation of what’s being in there in terms of indexing and verification of sources and the footnotes and whatnot. So what it brings up if you will chat GPT which, you know, it does so many marvelous things, and it looks like it’s citing verified sources and, and it looks like everything is appropriate, but it’s not. And so how do you what sort of shortcuts can you provide? aid in establishing the validity of sources, it doesn’t seem like there’s an easy path and just telling Jack GBT, give me verified sources doesn’t seem to be enough, either. No.
Ross Dawson 45:11
So this point, there’s only two solutions. One is manual checking. And the other is you can, there’s some people who are creating some apps at the moment, which are, for example, if the link is given by a live language model, it will just go and check that that line that link is actually valid, supposed to imagined. And, you know, potentially to have some kind of other checks on that. So there’s, there’s a simple, very simple layer of automation, which can assist in being able to assess the, the, you know, what’s produced hallucinations. But yeah, I, I’ve found times when they’re found the majority of what it’s I get back is illuminated, but it’s still valuable. You know, for example, you know, sometimes I’ve asked in the past for books on a particular topic, and it gives me, you know, a couple of books, I’ve read a couple books I haven’t read in a book that doesn’t exist. And for the books, I haven’t read ones, okay, actually, that’s, that is interesting. And so you got to do your homework and legwork, and yeah, and so on, or, again, I was actually researching non-white male definitions of intelligence. And so, there’s my immense amount of hallucinations generated in the responses, but it felt it pointed me towards some people, you know, that had invented quotes of those people. But I found that as people in those, then I found things they actually had said, which were relevant. And so it’s, it’s doesn’t, you know, cut time, to nothing to give you the answers. But it’s still more efficient, if used in the right way and for the right purposes. So you just need to, you know, not expect it to give perfect answers, but simply to be a tool, which can be deeply questions, you know, the classic demo description of treat to GBT as an intern, as ended smart and wants to help, but it’s probably going to make some mistakes. So you got to check everything, but you can still be helpful.
Minter Dial 47:27
That’s a very good way of presenting chat, GBT 4.0 it last question for you, before we close out Ross? What are the tools that can help us in this idea of parsing through what are the top tools? And can AI? Actually, easily help us today in in curating the information that we need?
Ross Dawson 47:54
The broad answer is, I’ve been disappointed forever. And still, today, really, in the quality of information filtering tools, including AI enabled one. So what I would point to is the promise of them becoming a lot better soon. So I still largely use manual filtering, I use RSS feeds, I go particular sources. You know, and obviously, if you are using social media, in any sense, there are algorithms behind that, which, with varying degrees of quality. But if you train, you can train social media algorithms by only demonstrating any hint of any interest if it actually truly is something you want to see more of be aware of every click you make. Yes, exactly. And the algorithms can be started to be more useful and effective for you. And so there’s still an array of tools. There’s some interesting initiatives I’m seeing, but I won’t mention them, because they’re not really good enough, I think to talk about but I think they are promising in terms of the potential of AI to, to build more effectively. And it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of astounding to me, how poor, our information filters are still today. Which, you know, puts the onus back on us, we’ve got to keep on looking for the tools and use what what’s good for us and hopefully, avoids us falling into the trap of relying on the machine too much.
Minter Dial 49:44
We need to take accountability and responsibility for the issues as the stoics say, it’s not what happens to you. It’s how you react to what happens to the accounts. So, Ross Dawson, a futurist and what lies in the future of Ross and how can we connect with You and that future.
Ross Dawson 50:03
So I got a good number of new initiatives coming out. So I mean, my general work is at Ross dawson.com. So I’ve recently rebranded my podcast, which was titled thriving on overload to amplify and cognition. And that’s to bring together these ideas of thriving and overload as we’ve discussed, and humans plus AI, which is my major theme at the moment. So amplifying cognition points to a number of the other initiatives, which you have at the moment, which includes a new humans plus AI learning community. And also a new AI app, thought Weaver, which is provides an interface to make more effective people’s interactions with GPT and other large language models. So all of those various resources can be accessed at amplifying cognition.com
Minter Dial 51:04
Brilliant, the use of the word Weaver makes me think of a little bit the old-fashioned notion of the hands and the artisanal, and back to the reality which is that it just can’t be some simple, easy thing. We still need to be manual, we still need to bring the human with the AI. And it’s been a pleasure listening to you, Ross. I appreciate it very much your perspectives. I enjoyed the book. I think it’s a desperately necessary book thriving on overload. Because I think of the problem of the lack of thriving in people’s lives. And I think of the predicament of this overload of communications and information is one of the things that has hijacked so many of our lives, that we’re not good at it. So many thanks, Ross for being on the show. I look forward to staying in touch and encourage everybody to go get your book thriving on overload. Thank you very much, Ross.
Ross Dawson 51:57
Great pleasure Minter.
Minter Dial 52:01
Thanks for having listened to this episode of the Minter Dialogue podcast. If you liked the show and if you’d like to support me, please consider a donation on patreon.com/MinterDial. You can also subscribe on your favorite podcast service. And, as ever, rating reviews are the real currency for podcasts. You’ll find the show notes with over 2000 and more blog posts on minterdial.com Check out my documentary film and four books, including my last one, “You Lead, How being yourself makes you a better leader.” And to finish here’s a song I wrote Stephanie Singer, A Convinced Man.
Minter Dial is an international professional speaker, author & consultant on Leadership, Branding and Transformation. After a successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots and has spent the last twelve years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. He has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and figure out how best to integrate new technologies, digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dial up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He’s author of four award-winning books, including Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence (2nd edition) (2023); You Lead, How Being Yourself Makes You A Better Leader (Kogan Page 2021); co-author of Futureproof, How To Get Your Business Ready For The Next Disruption (Pearson 2017); and author of The Last Ring Home (Myndset Press 2016), a book and documentary film, both of which have won awards and critical acclaim.
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