News, Fake News and Not News

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Recently we were thinking about the news. What makes news? Then there is the discussion about fake news. At Wikipedia we found a page that is about Fake news websites: “Fake news websites (also referred to as hoax news, deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news — often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect.Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other gain”.

But what about news that is “left out“, as we formulated in one of our blog posts?

“One can safely assume that any information you are presented with has some relevant information “Left Out”. The originator’s perspective, the logic bubble in which he perceives the world and how the information is applied are some possible reasons for the missing information”.

We can also safely assume that editors of media do “leave-out” news, in good faith. However, there could be some doubt about, as Naomi Chomsky pointed out in “Manufacturing Consent“:

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“The mass communication media of the U.S. are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalised assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”

That raises the question if there exists a keyword “Not News” in Google. Could we find “left-out”news in Google? We got only one hit:

Project Censored – The News That Didn’t Make The News and Why is a well researched website featuring the Top Censored Stories of 2015–2016: Covering up police violence by manipulation Wikipedia pages, violations of the Freedom of Information Act, compensations for vaccine injured families, big pharma lobbying, internet surveillance, FBI spying on rebellion at high schools, and lots of other disturbing news not mentioned in the mainstream media.

Admittedly, it’s all in America, but would it be different elsewhere? We earlier described the mechanisms that explain why disturbing news is not published by the mean stream media (See Press Patterns).

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By the way, in addition to “Manufacturing Consent”, we came across an interesting essay about “Manufacturing Normality”. Nowadays political dissent is stigmatised as aberrant or “abnormal” behaviour, as opposed to a position meriting discussion. Political distinctions like “left” and “right” are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like “normal” and “abnormal,” “true” and “false,” and “real” and “fake.”.

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Creating Innovation in Large Networks

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Apart from traditional conferences, which tries to spread and share knowledge, innovation and change are mostly attributed to networking and informal contacts; however, there are some ways to help to rely less on informal networking.

Large Scale Interventions

Large Scale Interventions (or Large Group Facilitation) are ways of active influencing groups from 30 to 2000 persons in order to initiate change. It is a deliberately planned, organization-wide effort (or even across organizations) to increase effectiveness or to enable achieving strategic goals.

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Examples are:
• raising awareness of medicine safety at a medical conference
• establishing trust and cooperation between enterprises, research labs, universities and governmental agencies
• transfer of knowledge or innovations at industrial conferences
• improving social cohesion in neighborhoods

There are several forms of Large Group Interventions:
• Open Space
• World Cafe
• Six Thinking Hats
• Future Search

Open Space

Many people report that the most useful parts of a traditional conference are not the presentations held by expert speakers, but the networking and informal contacts in between. So why not skip the expert speakers and just limit a conference to what the participants are most interested in?

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Open Space Technology is an approach to purpose-driven leadership,including a way for hosting meetings, conferences, corporate-style retreats, symposium, and community summit events, focused on a specific and important purpose or task — but beginning without any formal agenda, beyond the overall purpose or theme.

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In Open Space Technology (an unconference) the attendees create the working agenda, as individuals post their issues in bulletin board style. Each individual “convener” of a breakout session takes responsibility for naming the issue, posting it on the bulletin board, assigning it a certain space and time to meet, and then later showing up at that space and time, kicking off the conversation, and taking notes. The conference is nearly totally self-organized, see here for examples.

World Cafe

The “World Café” is a structured conversational process intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion, and link ideas within a larger group to access the “collective intelligence” or collective wisdom in the room.

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Participants move between a series of tables where they continue the discussion in response to a set of questions, which are predetermined and focused on the specific goals of each World Cafe.

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The process begins with the first of three or more twenty-minute rounds of conversation for the small group seated around a table. At the end of the twenty minutes, each member of the group moves to a different new table. They may or may not choose to leave one person as the “table host” for the next round, who welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round. See here for examples.

Six Thinking Hats

A lot of group discussions, especially when the group becomes large, bog down in arguments and   “scoring winning points”. As a result, discussion goes on for hours and participants lose interest.

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A way to prevent arguing and replacing it by exploration of a subject, the method of the Six Thinking Hats is used. It provides a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so to think together more effectively, resulting in 3 times more ideas in 3 times less time. See here for examples.

Future Search

Future Search is the name for a 3-day planning meeting that enables people to cooperate in complex situations, including those of high conflict and uncertainty. The method typically involves groups of 40 to 80 people in one room and as many as 300 in parallel conferences.

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People follow a generic agenda, regardless of topic. It consists of 4 or 5 half day sessions on the Past, the Present, the Future, Common Ground, and Action Planning.

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Future Search methods have been used to design an integrated economic development plan in Northern Ireland, work with a Hawaiian community to reconnect with traditional values, and determine the future of urban mobility in Salt Lake City, Utah, among many other examples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Group Obedience

Have you ever stopped yourself from speaking up at a meeting because you felt that the idea or suggestion would not be appreciated or ridiculed? Groupthink is a phenomenon where the desire for group cohesiveness and a quick decision cloud the judgment of the people in the group. The decision taken is often less than ideal. Consequently, identifying warning signs of groupthink is vital. 

images (1)Bay of Pigs was a plan that many knew in advance would fail. Yet the American President J.F. Kennedy went ahead with the plans to try to invade Cuba despite the fact that several of the general knew that the plan would backfire.

Another example is the Challenger explosion, which was a disaster that occurred in 1986 where seven people died. Engineers of the space shuttle knew about some faulty parts months before takeoff, yet the signs were ignored to avoid negative press and the shuttle was launched. 

imagesFeelings of unanimity and morality within the group lead to the members thinking that everyone agrees. Members of the group may be afraid of controversy and there may be a pressure to conform to the group’s decision. In some cases, there is a pressure to make a quick decision and the group may work with incomplete information. This may result in an idea that is not balanced. Or it may result in a family going to Abilene despite the fact that no one wants to go. ScreenShot2012-01-27at115851AM

The Abilene Paradox was coined by Jerry B. Harvey, and author of “The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management”. 

There are a number of ways to avoid groupthink such as finding negative points and risks with an idea (see Thinkibility – Positive & Negative). Asking members outside the group to look at the idea is another way to reduce the effects of groupthink. 

Learning how to spot groupthink is vital. Signs of groupthink are a strong leader, high level of group cohesion and pressure from the outside to make a good decision.

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Pressure of a moral character is difficult to deal with. For example, the suggestion that an idea is better because it is more moral is challenging and difficult to resist since no one wants to be seen as less moral or immoral. Suggestions such as “We all know right from wrong, and this is right” are emotionally difficult to deal with. 

A company should have a Plan B or a contingency plan to minimise risks related to groupthinkThe emotional consequences of groupthink can leave many of the members feeling disillusioned and dissatisfied. Enthusiasm can fade if you feel that you do not support a decision that has been taken by the group.  

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Creating a healthy group working environment helps to ensure that the group makes good decisions. Nominal Group Technique focuses on members independently  nominating priority issues, on a scale of, for example, 1 to 5.

 

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Another method that could be used is the Delphi method. This method helps to structure the communication to ensure that consensus is achieved. Thus these methods try to prevent and minimise the impact of Groupthink.

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It is called Delphi because some researchers assumed that the forecasts by the priests of the Delphi oracle basically were compilations of information the visitors from all over the known world brought in themselves.

Basically, it is not the best strategy to strive for consensus, but for dissent.

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So encourage disagreement, difference of opinion, argument, dispute, disapproval, objection and protest over constructing consent and majority rule.

See also our earlier posts:

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Controlled Behavior by Design

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Design has been used throughout history to control our behavior. Hausmann designed  the broad avenues in Paris with the aim to better control riots and revolutionary uproars. There are designs  that prevent you from lying on a bench, so called anti homeless benches. Citizens have built low viaducts to prevent buses going into the town to prevent low-income inhabitants to enter the town. These kinds of designs aims towards controlling behavior in  a man-made environment.

Sometimes designs are used to  encourage safe or healthy behavior.

  • Speed bumps slow down cars without any need to have a police man present. In some countries speed bumps are called sleeping policeman.
  • Red strips along a road mark the way for cyclists and increase their safety.
  • Sidelines on roads produce sounds when you drive over it, to warn you to stay on course.

Other examples are less innocent, schools, prisons and military barracks are examples of disciplinary architecture.

The arrangement of chairs affects our behavior. Each arrangement produces different interaction patterns.

  • Chairs in a meeting rooms could be arranged along a large table, at the end of the table is  the chairman.
  • The chairs could also be arranged in a full circle, or U-form.

In many merchants ships the quarters of the crews are deliberately designed to enhance possibilities of encounters with other crew members.

In government buildings, the automatic doors are  adjusted in a way that forces the entrants to slow down their speed, which in theory should have consequences for their behavior inside the building (they should act in a calm manner).  Some interpret this as a kind of systemic violence.

Artifacts  have politics. Langdon Winner says: ” The machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions to efficiency and productivity and their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority”

We will take this idea somewhat further into the digital age. Are there architectures of control in the digital environment? Could it be that the lay-out of software programs and apps forces specific behavior and exclude other behavior?

Recently we experienced  the downfall of the de Bono Society, an information based and social networking site for people interested in de Bono’s approach to thinking. We assume that the members were familiar with the principles of Parallel Thinking – a fundamental concept in this thinking framework. Parallel Thinking is an alternative for “adversarial” thinking. The aim is to open up possibilities, to explore situations and to escape linear thinking.

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However, the approach to thinking in the de Bono Society was all but Parallel. Often contributors fell into  the trap of proving that statements were wrong, classifying arguments as false or true and blocking discussions that seem to be going in unexpected yet interesting ways. We described this mechanism already in our blog post Dialectical Thinking or Kick-Box Thinking  as basically linear thinking.

Why then was the de Bono Society a failure and a disaster for proving the value of Parallel Thinking? Were the members not skilled enough?

We don’t think so. The contributors were lured into dialectical thinking because of the linear design of site. The lay-out of the site did not encourage parallel thinking. It might even have discouraged it.  The site used the standard dialectical lay-out as used in sites as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  It was not designed for Parallel Thinking. As such it had unintended consequences for the thinking performed by its members.

We desperately need software and apps that are deliberately designed for Thinkibility. Software and apps that control our thinking behavior in a more constructive way.

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Dialectical Thinking or Kick Box Thinking

Dialectical Thinking is a common way of resolving arguments in company meetings, families, scientific discussions and political debates. It is suggested that dialectical thought enable individuals  to tackle complicated issues once they acquire the capacity, to coordinate the characteristic contrasting and contradictory thoughts.

Often the process unfolds in a fixed pattern.

A person or a party (A) puts forward a statement or conclusion.

Then he gives two or three as convincing reasons or arguments that supports his position:

+ Pro is….

+Also pro is…

+And pro is…

Then, a second party or person tries to undermine or find a way to destroy the arguments of A.

If the person or party have undergone a training in negotiation, they will aim at the weakest  reason A has given. If they succeed to prove the given argument is false, then there is no need to destroy the stronger arguments because the proponent’s suggestion has already become implausible.

Then party B will present their arguments to prove that A’s conclusion is wrong.

– Against it is…

– Also against it is…

– And against it is…

Upon that, it is A’s turn to shoot down the arguments of the  opponent.

These types of discussion are in many ways fruitless. It is difficult to reach a conclusion and there is a lack of new ways to approach a problem. It is a constant kicking and boxing of ideas back and forth without
any true dialogue with others.

Above described pattern of Dialectic Thinking is deeply rooted in Western society.  Hegel suggested that this approach  were responsible for many of the achievement and discoveries made in particularly technology and medicine.

Basically, a sequential process is followed which assumes that once a thesis is formed, an antithesis must arise, and then, miraculously, a synthesis will be reached. Provided that the personal relations between the proponent and the opponent will be unaffected by this process of fighting each others arguments. Mostly, it is not.

Moreover, an A against B debate delivers seldom new insights outside the statement put forward. A proposal to increase the age for a state pension with two years will end up with an agreement or with a veto. By relying on dialectical thinking it is difficult to up with ideas of other possibilities to provide social security for the elderly, other than by a state pension.

Ideas such as the ones below would not be explored. One of them could, if improved upon, lead to a way of providing social security for the elderly.

– Increase the pension age with 5 years

–  End the pension age at 90

– Everyone is obliged to make savings for a pension

– Organise pension as a health insurance

– Only people with a university degree will have to work longer

– Everybody has to work 50 weeks before entitled to a pension

– The amount of pension depends on your earned income during your life – the higher income the less pension

Basically, Dialectic Thinking, also called :adversarial thinking”  is sequential in nature, and focused on the interchange of arguments.Or a Kick Boxing Thinking!

One answers to overcoming the limitations of traditional dialectic thinking is Parallel Thinking. This idea was designed by Edward de Bono. In Parallel Thinking both thinking parties look at the same direction (parallel), and the aim is to explore the unknown as the nineteenth century explorers travelled through continents. An advantage with this approach is that the more brain power is directed at the same point. All the involved parties try to find points for the argument and then they can switch at look for ideas against the suggestion. The result is a more rounded view of the suggestion that may lead to a better decision.

Photo:  Protection by graur razvan ionut