Curium Solutions – Simplified Change Management, Birmingham, West Midlands

Is the earth flat?

By Chris Finnegan

03 May 2019

Is the earth flat? A Netflix documentary inspires Chris Finnegan to reflect on how opposing opinions and different ways of thinking can give rise to positive outcomes.

Like many other people across the globe, this weekend I spent arguably too much time flicking through Netflix trying to find the perfect movie or series to watch.

I eventually decided on a documentary called ‘Behind the curve’, a feature-length film that explores the recent popularity of America’s ‘flat-earth’ movement; a movement which appears to be growing despite hundreds of years of scientific evidence disproving the idea.

It’s a fascinating watch, and two things stood out for me:

  1. Facts v stories

‘Flat earthers’ believe so strongly that the earth is a flat stage covered by a dome, that they seemingly refuse to accept any evidence giving an alternative view. However, not only do they refuse to accept evidence presented to them, but they also don’t believe the results of their own experiments, which also contradict flat-earth theory.

When questioned about the results, the experimenter’s response was: “We just gotta figure out a way to make it work.” In other words, change the experiment to provide the results they want, rather than face up to the facts!

The story that flat-earthers tell themselves is so strong that it appears they simply can’t accept any results that oppose their beliefs. Therefore, they aren’t challenging or changing their beliefs in light of the evidence.

  1. Flat-earthers v scientists

The documentary depicted two separate groups, which have opposing views – those who believe the earth is flat (flat-earthers), and the scientists who believe the earth is round. The two groups have distanced themselves from one another, both sceptical of the intentions of the opposing group.

This very divide is perhaps what has led to such extreme views, with one wise scientist quoting “Every flat earther shouldn’t be held with contempt but should serve as a reminder of a scientist that could have been, someone that fell through the cracks.”

German philosopher Hegel tells us that thinking evolves over time, as two opposing views (a thesis and antithesis) collide, creating a new perspective which incorporates the best of both views (the synthesis). A stark division between scientists and flat-earthers prevents this evolution of thought from both perspectives.

Why am I telling you this?

The flat earth debate is just an example of how different ways of thinking can create division. We know from tools like TetraMap® that every individual is a unique blend of behavioural preferences, which means that we all think very differently and can bring a fresh perspective on any given topic.

Acknowledging that thinking differently is a positive thing, and harnessing the power of diversity, is the key to truly evolving our collective thinking, and reaching better, more rounded outcomes. If we don’t have open debate, don’t have challenge, don’t have people giving new perspectives, then we may remain wedded to the ideas that we alone have created.

Additionally, inquisitive and challenging individuals are not our enemies… quite the opposite – they are our biggest opportunity! If we genuinely want to achieve the best outcomes, then receiving challenge to an idea should be something that we actively welcome, rather than discourage, so that we can make our ideas even better.

Let me leave you with these questions

  • What stories are you telling yourself? Are you holding onto any beliefs despite the facts?
  • Who do you find challenging? How can you start building bridges to make use of their feedback?

For anyone interested in understanding how diversity of thought and behaviours plays out in their own teams or organisation, a simple way to do this is to use the behavioural preference tool TetraMap.

TetraMap is a learning model which accelerates an understanding of self and others, focusing on what influences our behaviours, and how we can flex to achieve our desired outcomes.

At the heart of TetraMap is this belief: strength lies in valuing differences. The Elements TetraMap uses are rooted in nature and are: Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Every Element has a part to play and every individual has all four Elements.

TetraMap preferences provided the basis for our latest report: Empowering inclusive leaders for a diverse world. Take a look and see how knowing more about your own preferences and those of others can help you to create a more inclusive workplace.

Get in touch if you want to find out more about TetraMap, and how this can add value to any team.

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