As many readers will know, my book, A Mind for Business, is out now published by Pearson, and I wanted to give a little background as to why I wrote it, and how it relates to our work here at Mindapples.
That’s because, in addition to the obvious commercial reasons for writing it, this book is actually rather important to me. Though my background over the past decade has been more in innovation and social change than the study of how our minds work, this subject has fascinated me more and more over the years, and has become the core of both the Mindapples campaign and the changes I now hope to see in the world.
Put simply, my argument behind this book is as follows: I believe society today is operating with a surprisingly primitive and inaccurate model of how our minds work, and this is causing us a lot of problems. (This is true of the UK in my specific experience, but I strongly suspect my argument will apply elsewhere too.)
We have quite a good understanding of our bodies these days, but our minds are still, for the most part, the province of myth and hearsay, from throwaway comments about ‘brain chemistry’ to films about using 100 per cent of our brains. These myths are often found in pub conversations and pop culture, but they also seep into our everyday language to affect every aspect of how we live and work – from job interviews to GP visits, law courts to public policy.
Some of these misconceptions – such as the economic assumption of independent, rational choices – are being challenged, but many more – the faith in eye-witness testimony for example, or the persistence of ‘left- and right- brain thinking’ – persist, influencing our choices and shaping our lives.
These beliefs interfere with our ability to work effectively and manage people properly. They prevent us from realising our strengths and forgiving ourselves our weaknesses. They prevent us from understanding each other, and affect our organisations and our relationships.
If we are going to build the society we want, we are going to need a much more accurate understanding of our minds than this. The closest term for for this in modern psychology is mentalisation – the ability to accurately assess what is happening in your mind, or in someone else’s mind, and relate that to behaviour. Our ability to understand our own mind and the minds of people around us directly affects the quality of our life and work – and more importantly, it is a skill which can be taught and learnt.
So my purpose in writing this book is to dispel the old, inaccurate views of our minds, and replace them with models that work better. By presenting an overview of the most robust, evidence-based theories of mind currently on offer, I hope to help us all understand ourselves and each other better, to work smarter, feel calmer, and get along better. The findings collected have certainly helped me, my colleagues here at Mindapples, and the participants in our training sessions, and I hope through the book they will help us collectively as a society too.
Models are never perfect of course, and they are rarely finished. We are a long way from being able to make perfect predictions about human behaviour, and perhaps we should be grateful for that. But we all need models, and we use them unavoidably and habitually to make thousands of assumptions about ourselves and others every day – and so I think we should try to make our assumptions as accurate and useful as possible.
I hope this book, like the Mindapples workplace training that inspired it, can contribute to this ongoing process of making sense of our humanity, and help us all to harness our minds more effectively and sustainably.
A Mind for Business is out now, published by Pearson.