Friday, 13 January 2012

Primus inter pares (first among equals)

1. People are biased.
2. People are alike.

Out of a million high school students surveyed just 2 percent said they were below average in their leadership ability (Gilovich 1991). Similar results show up every time a study like this is done. On average people claim to be above average.

Our ‘bias blind spot’ stops us recognising our own cognitive biases, so not only is it happening around us all the time influencing how we see ourselves and everyone else, we’re also programmed to ignore it!

The ‘halo effect’ is where we confuse a pretty face for someone we might get on with. It works backwards too, and with crowds. If we’re apalled by the huge number of people surrounding us we stop seeing them as other humans and they become unattractive and less interesting. Eventually they become obstacles to what we want to do. Next it’s road rage and shinning up the nearest drainpipe with a hunting rifle.

This is also the inspiration for all zombie films.

Contrary to convention, the heroes of zombie films aren’t tenacious survivors battling mounting odds, they’re people with no empathy who have started killing random strangers. The classic movie zombie is YOU seen through the eyes of a murderous sociopath.

That thing you like? Most people like that. That thing you do when no one else is around? We all do it. That song that really speaks to you? Us too.

The way to stand out from the crowd is to never go with your first or second ideas. Abandon them and go with the third, fourth or fifth idea, because everyone else at this point in their creative journey is thinking the same thing you are. It's the things we think of as we push on that make us individuals, nurturing our idiosyncracies and using them to influence our choices. Paradoxically, these ideas often resonate more effectively with others because they still speak of human experience, yet perhaps in a less frequently or even wholly original way.

The universe is trying to return to a unified state of sameness so it can end and start again. Fighting it takes effort. Differences between people are small but they build up over time. The more stuff you do the more it will stand out, the more you or your work will become defined. Originality is shaped by hard work and experience. We’re shaped from before we’re born and right through our lives to be the simplest thing we need to be to fit our surroundings, and right now at the beginning of the 21st Century that means being one of a crowd. And we hate it.

We’re fantastic at adapting to change, but we can bring about changes too. If we change the way we look at things, how we think about things, how we respond or react to things, we can change everything we do, see and feel.

No one is special. Everyone is special. Next time you meet a zombie bear in mind they’re meeting one too.

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