With the ease of access to information, it is becoming increasingly challenging to control what is being said, shared and promoted.
Truth and facts are now surrounded by overwhelming levels of fake news, lies, opinions masquerading as facts and principles, agenda filled narratives (of problems and situations).
Social media has given people the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with a click of a button. These thoughts and feelings are often interpreted as “there must be some truth to this, if not people won’t share it.’
The adage “beware, you are entering at your own risk”, seems very applicable in the current environment.
But for today’s environment the adage “beware, you are reading/listening at your own risk”, may be more appropriate.
So, what do we need as a key competence or ability, when we are constantly overloaded with information?
DISCERNMENT (It is the ability to obtain sharp perceptions). It’s more than being “technically” objective and rational.
How discerning are we?
The information we seek, accept, trust and accept is often not a conscious one, unless we make it so. It is more a function of something inside us. A combination of several factors including previous experiences, mindset, fears, motivations, values etc.
Why is discernment critical?
Consider the fast pace of life and business and the speed at which decisions are made.
Consider how quickly information spreads, is shared and influences opinions and actions.
Consider the multitude of stakeholders trying to pursue their personal agenda.
If we are not discerning, we fall into the trap of following the crowd, group think and fall prey to agendas and narratives of others that are self-serving.
There are people who understand that when discernment is lacking in people, they are gullible to being influenced and use it to their advantage. As responsible leaders, we need to strengthen our ability and our people’s ability to discern to minimize the risk to strategy, actions, culture and performance.
I would suggest that organizations need to start paying attention to “Discernment” and give it strategic importance.
Leaders who recognize the importance of discernment and nurture it are likely to have a competitive advantage.
So, what can we do to strengthen discernment?
One key element to strengthen discernment is self-awareness.
Without self-awareness problems get amplified as our biases become part of our formed opinion.
With self-awareness, however, we are more discerning, we increase our ability to notice our biases, our self-deceptions and our emotions more honestly. Self-awareness helps us see things “as they are” not “as we would like them and/or believe them to be.”
Self-Awareness cannot be left to chance. There needs to be a deliberate and sustained strategy to heighten self-awareness.
I would highly recommend the books Leadership and Self-Deception, The Anatomy of Peace, Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect and The Outward Mindset to strengthen Self-Awareness and as a result Discernment.
By Senthiyl S S G, Director (Consulting), (Arbinger Institute (Singapore/Malaysia) Senthiyl has been supporting leaders and organizations with mindset change for more than 15 years in nearly 20 countries.