Our View of the World is Misleading Part 2: Implications for Personal Integrity and Fiduciary Responsibilities
March 5, 2019 ~ Written by: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner
Approx. Read Time: 9 Minutes
Please note that the references in these articles to Buddhism are intended to relate to what is called “Secular Buddhism” – devoid of the spiritual aspect.
Business Brain Implications
In the interview with Terry Gross titled Can Buddhist Practices Help Us Overcome the Biological Pull of Dissatisfaction? he shares: “What I can say about meditation is that it attacks the levers that natural selection kind of uses to control us, at a very fundamental level.”
Let’s consider a couple of examples where evolutionary baggage impacts the Business Brain:
#1 Interpersonal relationships
One of the classic examples in this category is a phenomenon known as “fundamental attribution error”, which Robert Wright deals with in detail in Why Buddhism Is True.
The fallacy here is the tendency to rationalize people’s behavior by our perception of the “kind” of person they are (dispositional) as opposed to the situation in which we find them (situational).
The objective is to find the correct balance of disposition and situation – a balance between affect and reason.
As an example (scholarly references from Wright that I have gone back and reviewed), of the extreme position in this regard, Lee Ross (The Intuitive Psychologist and His Shortcomings: Distortions in the Attribution Process) stated “clerics and criminals rarely face an identical or equivalent set of situational challenges.”
Even more definitively, Gilbert Harman (Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology) states that “there is no empirical basis for the existence of characteristic traits.”
This human predicament is such that beyond one’s personal interactions, business people need to have acute relationship skills as they deal with partners, employees, customers, competitors etc. While I have written previously on meeting environments, non-verbal communications etc. regarding interactions, we must first start with a rationale and objective perspective of the people around us.
#2 Decision Making
Let me start by summarizing comments from earlier articles I have written on this topic:
- Obviously, this flies in the face of historic views that all of the responsibility is with the brain. In other words, the brain is not the only influencer on behavior, including decision making etc. (How Embodied Is Your Cognition?)
- These six experiments showed that physical interactions with three fundamental dimensions of touch influence our impressions and decisions, even when the people and events those impressions and decisions concern are entirely unrelated to what is being touched (How Embodied Is Your Cognition?)
- There is no shortage of illustrations that our sensory input influences our perceptions and therefore actions and decisions (How Embodied Is Your Cognition?)
- Having preceded this with one targeted at the limbic (emotional) part of your brain, I will now try to engage your prefrontal cortex. As you, hopefully, will have previously learned, your subconscious has already made an emotion based “decision” – we are now just going to give your conscious brain ammunition so it can rationalize that decision (How to get Intimate with Your Passion: Passion Part Two)
One additional example – the inclination of ‘false positive’ errors manifests itself in our decisions.
Finally – one illustration that overlaps both #1 and #2: the inclination to label someone ‘trustworthy’ (or vice versa) inevitably occurs before you have all the evidence.
As we reflect on past and current references and some of the conclusions I have drawn here, we need to be ever more conscious of the fact that our behavior in interpersonal interactions and decision making is not being driven by a rationale conscious mind that is “in charge”.
I have at various times and in various places put forth the proposition that the responsibility to be objective in our decisions and fair in our treatment of others is enhanced in the world of business. I believe that business people have both a professional and personal obligation in these contexts. At Kirchner Group we have institutionalized this responsibility in various ways such as our earn/return and our head, hip and heart models.
Conclusion: Mindfulness and the Evolutionary Context
“Meditation is neither shutting things out nor off. It is seeing things clearly, and deliberately positioning yourself differently in relationship to them.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn
There is now a preponderance of information that mindfulness can be an essential aid in the world of business. Given the world view (perception) you create is subjective and constrained, mindfulness helps you to step back and see the “big picture”. In other words, it is more about thought and less about emotion.
Wright puts forward an additional perspective:
- Becoming more aware of the mechanics by which your feelings, if left to their own devices, shape your perceptions, thoughts, and behavior – and becoming more aware of the things in your environment that activate those feelings in the first place.
- Enlightenment in the Buddhist sense has something in common with enlightenment in the Western scientific sense: it involves becoming more aware of what causes what.
In contrast to the implication of a naive orientation:
- In order to abandon your rational faculties but rather to engage them: you can now subject your feelings to a kind of reasoned analysis that will let you judiciously decide which ones are good guiding lights. So, what “not making judgments” ultimately means is not letting your feelings make judgments for (Why Buddhism Is True – Robert Wright)
In closing, I offer up still one additional rationale for ‘promoting’ mindfulness. If none of the preceding were fact (or only partly true), what could possibly be the downside of business people who were more self-reflective and methodical?
“One of the things that’s most lacking in the world is not emotional empathy, it’s cognitive empathy meaning we have trouble seeing things from the point of view of other people … That is more urgently needed than emotional empathy.” – Robert Wright as cited by Sean Illing
- Gregory Cowles – A Science Writer Embraces Buddhism as a Path to Enlightenment
- Antonio Damasio – Assessing the Value of Buddhism, for Individuals and for the World
- Terry Gross – Can Buddhist Practices Help Us Overcome The Biological Pull Of Dissatisfaction?
- Gilbert Harman – Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology
- Sean Illing – Why Buddhism is true
- Tom Ireland – What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
- Lee Ross – The Intuitive Psychologist and His Shortcomings: Distortions in the Attribution Process
- Kirk Ulrich, Jonathan Downar and P. Read Montague – Interoception drives increased rational decision-making in meditators playing the ultimatum game
- Robert Wright – Why Buddhism Is True
Relevant Business Brain Model articles – Mindfulness
- Daniel Kahneman Meets Dalai Lama
- TPN vs. DMN – Neural Mechanisms and Mindfulness
- TPN vs. DMN – Brain Structure and Mindfulness
Relevant Business Brain Model articles – Decision Making
- Passion: Part Two – How to get Intimate with Your Passion
- A Neuroscience Perspective on Enhancing Innovation
- How Embodied Is Your Cognition?
- Can Your Vagus Nerve Stimulate Your Business Success?
About the Author: W.B. “Bud” Kirchner is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist with more than 50 years of business success. He is not a scientist or an academic but he does have a diversified exposure to neuroscience, psychology and related cognitive sciences. Generally speaking, the ideas he expresses here are business-angled expansions of other people’s ideas, so when possible, he will link to the original reference.