Looking back at my post from yesterday, I’d like to say that I really don’t see curiosity as being mutually exclusive to critical thinking skills, although my post (written in a hot and crowded room when I was in a bad mood) could be interpreted that way. After all, as Walter Kotschnig said, “Keep your minds open but not so open that your brains fall out.”
This morning, in a cooler, quieter place, it struck me that the idea that managers earn and deserve their tens of million in compensation could be a good point to practice Inquiry on. Some possible questions:
Data selection step
- What cases are you thinking of?
- What criteria for determining compensation are you using?
- How do you see the job, skill set, contribution, etc., of top managers?
- What are you comparing their responsibilities to?
Adding meanings step
- What do you think happens when those amounts of compensation are not paid?
- How do you see the connection between the skill set and so on and the amounts paid?
Drawing conclusions step
- What do people get paid for? or Why do companies pay salaries?
Taking action step
- How can we establish appropriate pay scales, in your opinion?
- What systems can we set up to make that work?
With special thanks to Quote Investigator for the original source of that quotation: http://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/04/13/open-mind/ I thought erroneously that it was from Carl Sagan.
Today the presidential election is taking place in the United States of America. The thing that has most upset me about the campaigns has been the polarization of a people. So much makes this obvious every day. Recent news reports state that big changes in who is voting for whom are no longer expected. People are entrenched. On Sunday The Boston Globe ran two front page stories in which they went to one community in Massachusetts where Clinton is clearly ahead and one community in West Virginia where Trump is clearly ahead and asked what people feared most if the other person won. The answers were practically identical—corruption, economic disaster, and war—and in both cases they thought their candidate was the only way to avoid those things. A TV news report a week or two ago, I think on the BBC, showed the same thing. Even Facebook posts that show up on my news feed support this picture. Neither group shows any curiosity—God forbid they should show any understanding—as to why the people on the other side are voting for their candidate. This is truly the path to ruin.
What struck me recently in a discussion I had about abortion rights is (a) how much we can learn about the multiple facets of an issue by listening to why other people believe what they believe and (b) how that then requires us to look beyond whether something is simply right or wrong. It requires us to see things in more nuanced and complex ways—which is much more challenging, can be distinctly uncomfortable, and yet is the only way to reach some kind of resolution that most people can live with. We do all share the country (and, ultimately, the planet) after all.
As I have written elsewhere, curiosity is, of course, not enough to solve the immense challenges and disagreements we are facing. It does seem to me, however, that without a desire to learn about other people and why they hold their views—without that kind of curiosity—we can’t even get started because we are all pulling as hard as we can in opposite directions.