“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw
I remember my first job more than a decade ago. We were a bunch of tech enthusiasts researching algorithms. Those were the days when Google came up with new products frequently. There were products such as Google Wave, Google Buzz, and Google Docs.
I was a Google fanboy. Whatever came from them must be the pinnacle of innovation and I had to use it. I also had to shove it down the throat of my colleagues. It was fun to work on a single Wave with multiple people and see how everybody was typing their ideas at the same time.
Sure, Google Wave was a huge synchronization challenge solved well, but was it adding any value to our process? Maybe marginally. Same with Google Buzz and Google Docs. Whenever, I sent a document to a supervisor, they would print it and give it back to me as a hard copy with handwritten notes on it anyway.
It took me a little more time to realize that my need to make an impact on my environment wasn’t serving me or my colleagues well.
Soon, Google retired Wave and Buzz, but it took me a little more time to realize that my need to make an impact on my environment wasn’t serving me or my colleagues well. Once I realized that, I started to do my due diligence before introducing a new technology to my colleagues.
- Have I tested this software thoroughly?
- Which value does this software add?
- Does the added value justify its cost in money, computing resources, and learning efforts?
- Most important. Can my colleagues effectively use this piece of software? Can they get the same value out of it as I do?
- Does it have significant added value over existing systems such as a standard email client?
The questions above are not only relevant to the software, but also to other products and lifestyle choices. Unlike other cryptocurrency enthusiasts, I don’t promote Bitcoin to everybody that I come across. I know that 99% of the population can’t figure out the security basics of Bitcoin and can’t deal with the ups and downs of the price.
This need has some leadership qualities and can contribute to the environment if acted upon consciously.
I realized through experience that my need to make an impact on my environment wasn’t serving me or my environment well all the time. Sure, this need has some leadership qualities and can contribute to the environment if acted upon consciously. However, it also has its flip side.
As humans, we tend to jump on conclusions without sufficient data. That is a part of our DNA. However, if our conclusions don’t match reality and if we impose those conclusions on others, then we are causing more harm than good.
Even though I curbed my need to make an impact on my environment, my real awakening came from the audiobook Outsmart Yourself: Brain-Based Strategies to a Better You by Prof. Peter M. Vishton (available from audible.com).
Prof. Vishton explained the need to make an impact on one’s environment brilliantly. He also explained that this need was inherent in all of us, even in babies. The lesson here is to become aware of this need in ourselves and use it in a conscious way. That way we can use this need to do more good and cause less harm.
The need to make an impact on one’s environment and jumping on conclusions are two of the many unconscious biases, needs, and heuristics that we carry in our DNA. Learning them and becoming conscious of them have their benefits. The book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a good starting point if you are interested in this subject.
Like all the biases, needs, and heuristics that we carry in our DNA, the need to impact one’s environment must have an evolutionary advantage that I can’t see at the moment. If you have any idea about it, let me know in the comments.
- Do you have the need to impact your environment?
- How does that manifest in your life?
- How does it serve or disserve you and/or the people around you?
- Which evolutionary benefit would the need to impact one’s environment have?