Echo Chambers

Some of you may feel I’ve turned a strange corner on my blog recently, either publishing continually about a digital framework or (for some) moaning or sounding downhearted about the lack of real change and challenge across the sector.

Well this brings me to a post I read earlier this week and the introduction simply summed up what I think has been missing in the sector and is fundamentally critical if we are to bring about a level of societal change which supports health and well-being and local growth.

The introduction in question is from HBR – Every Leader Needs a Challenger in Chief:

We are drawn to those who echo what it is we already believe. We get a dopamine rush when we are presented with confirming data similar to what we get when we eat chocolate or fall in love. On Facebook we defriend those with different political views to our own. On Twitter we follow people just like us.

Yet a vast body of research now points to the import of contemplating diverse, dissenting views. Not just in terms of making us more rounded individuals but in terms of making us smarter decision-makers.

I want to take this moment to share a short piece of my personal journey over the last 5 years – namely the tipping point and the point at which I think and believe my professional life changed.

On the 10th June 2008 I created my twitter account – it has been an interesting time with twitter over the years but it has something which has radically and fundamentally changed my professional life – it has directly contributed to my career path and my thinking and my attitude to listening to other views

On the 11th June 2008 I wrote my first blog post on this blog  and I can’t imagine not having the blog there to share a thought, a random idea or a personal story…it has simply become part of how I reflect and develop my thoughts. I looked back at my very first post which was somewhat random and innocent but this sentence sums up for me one of the key benefits of why I continue to do this.

I firmly believe that we can learn something from everyone we meet, this blog gives me an opportunity to reach further than my normal social network.

I didn’t realise at the time but by joining twitter and starting a blog I changed my perspective – opened my eyes, my ears and allowed myself to immerse in a huge diversity of opinion and contrasting views. I naturally agreed and disagreed with some of those and I blogged about how I thought about those things but it all helped shape me and it all fundamentally challenged who I was at the time.

Before 2008 I was in a bubble an echo chamber, where the views I had and were exposed to were from those people around me…I’m not suggesting I didn’t or couldn’t think for myself but I ‘m saying it is hard to develop different ideas when the ones you want to challenge are so strongly supported by everyone around you. It is more than simply a cultural issue…it is deep rooted in people’s personal beliefs and behaviours – so isn’t something you can easily change.

I guess what I see now is lots of bubbles and lots of echo chambers around the sector and they all need breaking down in my personal opinion and I have to ask myself “What can I do to help that process?” at the moment I don’t know…but wanted to share this challenge with you as you might have some thoughts  – I also think and believe that having all these bubbles and echo chambers is a bad thing and a very unhealthy situation to be in.

I had a conversation recently with George Julian about this very topic and have found the conversations with her are exactly what I need to bring into my thinking right now…George isn’t just someone I respect a huge amount and often agree with – she is someone who challenges my thinking and challenges how I think about things…. Generally speaking I’m a person who works from instincts and feelings – although I’ve never been afraid to admit if an idea or view I held for a time was wrong or needed changing…it isn’t easy to do but it is an essential part of growing and contributes hugely to my personal well-being – we should all do this more often…we would all be healthier and happier.

There are many people who actually provide valuable challenge to my thinking and I will make every effort to thank them and acknowledge them when i see them as I think it has to be a face to face acknowledgement.

I’m shortly going to be starting a strategic leadership programme here at the council and I want to make every effort to ensure that I keep my mind open to what everyone has to say and use the process to help make better decisions and to provide better and more effective leadership to those around me and beyond.



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