Why facts aren’t real and how we create our own reality. Don’t shoot the messenger, but measurements are not objectively valuable. Neither are modes of measurement. They’re culturally informed, and understanding that is radically important to creativity, innovation and changemaking.
As a PhD researcher, my field of study was looking beyond the construct of our shared reality into how realities are made. And they are made, otherwise different societies wouldn’t experience different realities.
It may be tempting to think “those are not different realities, they’re just different cultures” but they are different realities, and here’s why. Every aspect of the world as we experience it is co-created through how we perceive and interpret it. Both perception and interpretation are subject to a very specific kind of influence.
For a hint, consider Richard Wiseman’s Luck Factor, a book exploring the experience of being lucky or unlucky. This highlights the many differences between not only how self-proclaimed lucky people see, but in what they see. They notice things those who consider themselves unlucky do not.
Mario Martinez demonstrates how those who understand themselves as “old”, relative to the construct of age set out in their culture, suffer more than those who do not – regardless of actual age. Without realising it, one group move through the world very differently to the other.
The placebo effect and nocebo effect demonstrate this influence too, in healing or harming relative to … belief. Belief shapes what we see, whether we consider it relevant, how we interpret it within context, how we integrate that into our lived experience, future outcomes and therefore also what others believe.
As a former researcher and coach of some years, I can attest that the more attention we put on something by measuring and categorising it, the more we tell ourselves it’s worthy of our attention. Measuring things and valuing measurements leads to more of the same, conditioning us to hold specific lenses. Lenses we can’t help but view ourselves and the world through.
For example, western society is very proactive in measuring childhood performance in STEM subjects, at the expense of creative play and learning. We compare children to one another using grades, awards and later through access to further learning opportunities. Is it any wonder then that you compare yourself to others?
Or that research commissioned by NASA found that 98% of four year olds test at the creative genius level, but only 2% of adults? We’re simultaneously taught to believe that creativity is not important and that we don’t have it, but it’s not true. Wiseman highlights that we can change our luck by changing our beliefs. Martinez that we can improve our old age by changing our beliefs. And the NASA study shows that we can change our creativity by changing our beliefs.
Which brings us back to measurements, what they really are, and what they’re good for.
There’s a world of untapped potential out there, waiting to be discovered – if only we stop believing that everything is already understood and accurately qualified and quantified. If we stop seeing the numbers as objectively real and immutable, and start seeing them as something we can positively co-create with.
If we’re to build truly inclusive businesses and revolutionist industries, we have to be willing to commit to being explorers. To see for the first time, that which we have always seen but looked past. To go back to first principles.
This is not a call to “forsake all facts” but rather one to understand what they are. Deep down, “facts” are still layers upon layers of invisible biases interacting with one another in ways we can never fully unravel, filtered down through biassed individuals, to eventually be absorbed as truths by you. I can do this. I can’t do that. This isn’t possible. That’s not easy.
Take them at face value, and buy into people’s beliefs, and your reality can never be bigger than your conditioned lenses set out for you. Start to question facts, and it’s a lot like drinking some toothless old uncle’s moonshine at first. You’re pretty sure you’ve made a mistake and you’re definitely going to be sick. And thinking you’ll certainly regret it.
On the other side, however, is the understanding that we are all choosing our beliefs, whether we know it or not. We’re all conscripted into a shared reality, unless we choose to deconstruct it. We can open up the capacity for radical new perceptions, which become new offers, products, industries and lifeways.
When you understand that reality is simply the illusion (and delusion) groups participate in together, and that different cultures experience radically different realities, cultural change on a new level becomes accessible. As entrepreneurs, we have unlimited potential with which to innovate.
Martinez, M. 2014 “The mindbody code: How to change the beliefs that limit your health, longevity, and success.” Sounds True.
Wiseman, R. 2004 “The Luck Factor”. Random House.
Land, G. 2011 “The Failure of Success”, TEDx Tuscon Feb 2011 available from https://youtu.be/ZfKMq-rYtnc (accessed 13/12/2021)