All our own beliefs are obviously the right ones. They’re ours, so they must be.
But the importance of questioning this has been brought into focus by the current discombobulation of Covid.
My book, just published, Do Agile is about future proofing our minds by making our thinking more agile. With the pandemic, new challenges and opportunities are coming thick and fast. Now more than ever we need to stay plugged into developments.
What we need to be aware of is that the new pressures are bringing some interesting, and welcome, clarity to the timeless principles that underpin the book. It’s putting a spotlight on what we need to stay grounded, and how we are failing — sometimes abysmally — to live by these principles.
The four timeless principles which I focus on in the book I thought, when writing it, were unarguable. They are Honesty, Fairness, Compassion and Kindness-. They are indeed the basic principles in one articulation or another of all the world’s great religions. Who would argue against them?
But now, more than ever, they have been shouldered aside, and twisted out of recognition by governments of all stripes. Not just our own.
Let’s look at each one in turn.
Honesty. Science embodies honesty. Theories after rigorous testing are proved factually to be right or wrong, and scientists embrace the truth of new validations, either way. But with Covid, even the truths of science can be filtered and distorted by politicians. They can use science to find justifications to cover backsides, not to identify and validate important truths.
Fairness is daily ignored by the manifestations of how global capitalism is developing against the interests of the poor and the marginalised.
Compassion. Just look at is the status of immigrants working in Care homes and key but low paid jobs in the NHS.
Kindness. How kindly are we treating zero hours workers and the homeless?
The fact is that many of our core principles, unarguable principles, have been submerged — lost without trace in the currently fashionable geo-political groupthink of our, and other, governments.
This brings into focus the need for all of us to be clear-eyed and rigorously open-minded on the essence of these principles.
Because the fear induced by Covid can lead to a shutting down of the mind. We need to remind ourselves of the importance of the question “Am I right in thinking this”.
Thinking freezes, and frozen thinking leads to fixed mindsets. Which leads inevitably to the belief that “I am right. So you are wrong”.
Agile thinking means freeing ourselves from fixed mindsets. It means embracing the essence of the undiluted principles of Honesty, Fairness, Compassion and Kindness. And applying them to the new normal.
So we can then start to think through what the new normal should be.
How, for example, should work evolve — especially worthwhile work.
How should we resist the lure of protectionism.
What is our most beneficial role — morally and financially — in the future geo-political scenario?
The truth is we can only be confident we are right in thinking this if we keep our principles, as well as our thinking — to quote Dr Johnson’s description of the way to sustain friendships — by keeping them in a state of constant repair.