Friday, 28 August 2015

Grey is the new black

I know I've mentioned this already in a couple of other blog posts this week (trust and networks and doing the right thing), but I've just seen so many examples and issues recently caused by people dealing in absolutes that I think it deserves a mini-blog of it's own.  Here's my take on why grey is not only the new black but the colour of things to come if we're going to continue to evolve.


Firstly we need to dispel the notion that in day to day things we deal with predominantly facts.  We don't. We predominantly deal with opinions and versions of what we witness.  Outside of the purest of mathematics there's very little absolute fact.  In fact in high-level maths they even start to bring uncertainty and probability into the equations - call it grey maths.  For example, watch the news on different channels, listen to interviews - what they build is a picture of what's occurred that may become clearer in time but isn't a series of absolutes.  A great example here would be 911.  I can vividly recall the day and what unfolded and recollect the initial picture and the story that unfolded.  Sure there are facts, like aeroplanes colliding with the towers, but in amongst that are stories, versions, witness accounts which build the picture - not to mention motives, responsibilities and accountabilities much of which is still unclear to this day.

Processes need to cater for the normal not every possible eventuality.  This is one of the places that grey is your best colour to consider.  If you try to make process flow diagrams that show every outcome and possibility you'll do two things, firstly you'll make it very cluttered and overly complicated, and secondly you'll fail because you can't actually predict every possible outcome.  Instead you should show the main flow through and a simple how to get help if not.  Job done, simple, easy to follow and effective.

Time is relative to. I've spoken about this in previous posts (relativity in learning)and stressed the nature that 'facts' tend to change with time (hey, we once thought the world was flat).  Time is the ultimate colour mixing pot for us as the blend changes as we add more and more to it. What you think should be the same.  Do you hold the same beliefs entirely that you did yesterday or last year? What about 10 years ago or when you were 10? Time is relative and everything changes.

People are people. They are not wholly good or wholly bad, they just are what they are - a shade somewhere in between.  If you interact with people believing everything they say because they are good or vice-versa you just end up with a distorted picture (that you yourself will likely perpetuate to others).  Just as what they tell you isn't black or white nor are they and you can learn from interactions with everyone.

In fact the problem runs deeper.  We seem to have a love affair with categorising everything including people.  Not only are there not wholly good and wholly bad people,
there aren't even specific types of people.  There aren't 50 shades of grey (although there's a book and film) there are infinite.  We are all individual is just about it.  7 billion shades of grey? Yep and ever increasing.  It does seem to be human nature to categorise everything and pigeon hold for simplicities sake, but when we do that we should be aware it's a digital approximation of an analogue reality.  The ultimate digital state is binary; 1 or 0 or black and white and that's the extreme of categorising and inherently the least accurate.

So where does this leave us?  It leaves us in a world where critical thinking, compassion and empathy need to combine to work effectively together - and that's great :) Just remember that this blog post itself isn't right or wrong either, it's just a bit of my take on a Friday afternoon.