Posts Tagged ‘British Columbia’

I have the privilege of working as a representative in an exciting, new kind of governance body – a ROUND TABLE. Now when I say “NEW”, the historians amongst you may bristle, and point to the early twentieth century origins in Britain. What Wikipedia doesn’t show is the current use of ROUNDTABLES as more than just a form of academic discussion, but a new way of bringing governance to an often diverse group of stakeholders.

I have been participating on the Core Committee of the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable. The process of forming the Roundtable took years and evolved from the Coquitlam River Watershed Strategy.  When the Roundtable officially formed, it was defined as ” a multi-interest body with members representing various sectors with interests in the watershed. Governments and government agencies are represented on the Roundtable, which is an independent entity, not under government direction. The Roundtable does not have authority to make decisions related to the jurisdictional authority or legislative responsibilities of governments or government agencies.”  Now my initial sentence, states that the Roundtable is a governance body, and ultimately, by having all the stakeholders together, with common goals and common values, it is my belief that the Roundtable will drive decisionmaking through its collective strength. After all this is my BLOG, I can say what I believe without censure.

Ultimately, what I want to comment on at this juncture is that this process is working, and working brilliantly. On a subcommittee tasked with revisioning the website, stakeholders have donated hours of time on a regular basis to work through goals, visions, beliefs and ideas to achieve consensus. This is no small feat. Yet, outsiders working with the group, see us as homogenous.

I see the subcommittee as a diverse group of experienced community leaders, each with a view of the Watershed and the world, willing to share and debate, but even more willing to achieve harmony. Our enemies are time, constraints on our creativity and assaults on our cohesiveness. Yet these very things, perhaps like all opposing forces, only serve to bring us closer. I have great respect for each member of this group, for everything they bring to the table.

How lucky I am to have the luxuries of time, creativity and consensus-building skills so I can participate fully. As I participate, thinking (Roger’s Innovation Adoption Curve) I have spent most of my life as an “Innovator” or “Early Adopter”, and seeing many of the other members as “Late Majority” or  later, I find myself delighted that we are working in a modern process style and exploring extremely innovative ideas. Diversity, when given opportunity and nurture, can point the way to new and successful paths.

My tenant and sometime attendant, Geoff, provided the salient points from a book he was reading entitled  Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns. For those who suffer from depression, Dr. Burns identified what he saw as the root cause…twisted thinking. I see twisted thinking as a manifestation of the modern world; too much time for thinking perhaps? Dr. Burns identified ten categories of twisted thinking. When I first saw them, I quickly summarized them and shuffled them off by email to everyone I thought would take the time to read them. Brilliant work, Dr. Burns! If intelligent modern humans can recognize their twisted thinking, they can surely alter the course of their thoughts.

Then there is Groupthink…

Groupthink is also a pathology, much as the depression that is linked to the twisted thinking identified by Burns. Some of those appearing below influence the situation surrounding the politics of our tiny village.

Irving Janis devised some symptoms indicative of groupthink (1977).

  1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
  3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
  4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
  5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
  6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  8. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Groupthink, resulting from the symptoms listed above, results in defective decision making. That is, consensus-driven decisions are the result of the following practices of groupthinking

  1. Incomplete survey of alternatives
  2. Incomplete survey of objectives
  3. Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
  4. Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
  5. Poor information search
  6. Selection bias in collecting information
  7. Failure to work out contingency plans.

Twisted Thinking – Burns – the individual’s view

  1. All-or-nothing thinking… look at everything in all-or-nothing terms.
  2. Over generalisation… view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental filter… dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
  4. Discounting the positives… insist that accomplishments or positive qualities ‘don’t count’.
  5. Jumping to conclusions…
  6. bullet Mind reading – you think you know what others are thinking
    bullet Fortune-telling- you know what will happen and you know it will be a bad outcome

  7. Magnification or minimalization… blow up things out of proportion or  shrink their importance inappropriately.
  8. Emotional reasoning… You reason from how you feel:  “I feel like an idiot, so I really must be one.” or “I don’t feel like doing this so I’ll put it off.”
  9. Should statements… You criticise yourself to other people with ‘shoulds’ or ‘shouldn’ts’.  ‘Musts’, ‘oughts’ and ‘have-tos’ are similar offenders.
  10. Labelling… using words like “loser”, “troublemaker”, rather than saying the person made a mistake
  11. Personalisation and blame… You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attributes and behaviour might contribute to a problem.

Combine these two flawed thought processes and there is a cauldron of trouble. The individual works on the twisted forms of thinking and brings them to Groupthink as truths. Information is not gathered, assumptions are not challenged, an illusion of unanimity is created by a vocal few.

Can awareness that these are the processes taking place steer our tiny ship in a new direction? I often comment that the population of our village is no larger than many strata corporations. yet we are a municipality with many responsibilities and important decisions to make. When we abandon twisted thinking and Groupthink we may actually move forward in positive ways. I am ever hopeful.

Inspired by Chris and dedicated to Wendy…

I often find a soak in the tub a good place for meditation…I can think a bit and then dissolve my thoughts and just concentrate on sensory input. I listen (the delightful quiet of my home, water as I move), I feel (warm, soothing water), I smell (luckily in my own home just the hot wellwater, unscented soap, salty skin), I see (the familiar), I taste (must remember to taste even when my mouth is empty and associate smell and taste – note the saltiness, the hot water can be tasted in my mouth if I make the conscious effort). I relax without thought so easily because I have practiced.

Often, after, I have delicious thoughts. Today I was musing about a brief conversation with Chris (’twas by email) about truly listening and thinking. It blended well with an audiobook I am listening to,  The Virus of the Mindmemes spread…people have ideas, non-sensory bits in their minds, often meaningless, often untrue – that spread from person to person without consicousness or evaluation. My bathtub epiphany is that if the mind should be filled with 100% sensory input, and those of us lucky enough to have five intact senses are clever enough to use them, we can achieve happiness. Missing a sense, no problem, the other four senses are able and willing to fill the 100%, performing at a higher level. Nice!

A child, not yet overinfected with memes experiences happiness, lives in the present, enjoying sensory input. Perhaps, says my relaxed mind as it floats in the peaceful water, memes start to take over a greater and greater percentage of the available mind as we age, squeezing out the space where sensory input, the real stuff of mind lives.

Those suffering the greatest misery are most infected by the virus of the mind. The cure has been known for eons. It is not a pill. We don’t need to  find God or suffer a stroke like Jill Bolte Taylor. To be alive is to utilize our senses. Sometimes we are so removed from them that we feel lost. We can be caught up in culture, in judgment, in  yesterday, in tomorrow. The now, the loving kindness we show to others and that we are shown; our humanity is our five senses. Happiness, when it seems elusive, is within us.  To use our senses, to love and give, to be loved and accept our gifts… we have only 23,000 protein-coding genes- about the same number as an ear of corn or a roundworm. We are not so complex.

Life is simple and I am grateful.

As we work to make people in British Columbia a little more conscious of the pollution of airspace with fragrance and other harmful associated chemicals, the anti-smoking lobby continues with its fight. Many people think the smoking crackdown has been a complete success and it is a battle won. NOT SO!

In what perhaps should be a provincial responsibility, municipalities are left to determine smoking standards such as buffer zones, or how far away one must be from public doorways, windows and air intakes while smoking. Our provincial health authority is urging municipalities to increase the standard from 3 metres to 7.5 metres. So far only Anmore, Belcarra and Port Moody have done so in the Tri-Cities. Port Coquitlam turned down the request citing it as a provincial responsibility.

I follow this news closely. Anmore now has a scent-free municipal hall. Recognizing harmful chemicals in indoor air is progressive and I don’t see leadership on this issue from our provincial government…YET!