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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Controlling the Elephants

I recently finished John Haidt's books "the Righteous Mind" and "The Happiness Hypothesis". I really enjoyed his description of our minds and psyche's using the description of our conscious minds as being riders on elephants. We might believe we are in control of our elephants but in reality our elephants go where they want to go. What we view as our controlling selves really just represent entities which are simply advisory.

When I look out at human social structures, I realize the rider and elephant analogy extends beyond individual people. I lead a small department in a health care system. While I am ostensibly the Chief of this entity, I am more like the rider on the elephant. I control only a very small segment of activity of this operating unit and I am aware of only a small portion of what happens as a consequence of the actions of the people who supposedly answer to me.

I am OK with this. Attempts to make the world operate according to different principles are destined to fail. Change happens when the elephants have real incentivizes to change, not when the riders attempt to force the elephants to change.

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