Debunking and dynamics

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Any approaches or analytics need to be challenged approriately as they could be inately skewed due to cognitive bias, inappropriate hypothesis or poor data sampling. Having a challenging mindset is critical to success. 

John Cockburn-Evans of Team Coaching Boutique writes:

I thought I would share some recent reflections on reading Margaret Heffernan's book "Unchartered".

I have been lucky enough to hear her speak at an online conference. Her reflections on the importance of non-linear thinking and understanding the differences between complication and complexity are insightful. Particularly in chapter 3 there are amazing perspectives on the requirements for non-linear thinking and more importantly some critical myth busting on predictive analytics including personality type assessments, DNA, date matching, Artificial Intelligence and a whole load of other related predictive systems. There is a danger that we take the original hypothesis as sound, particularly where the algorithms are protected by IP etc.

These reflections were particularly Interesting for me as an engineer, who has spent 2/3rds of my life where predictive analytics were the staple.  it is really getting me to challenge my historical thinking, even more now I have become a coach. Margaret even makes the point that some of the current analytics can be counter intuitive and hinder diversity and inclusion rather than support it. We are not just products of ourselves, but our environments which ties in with the Energy Leadership Approach I am very familiar with.

Her approach is like that of Tim Harford, in his book "How to make the World Add Up". Challenge everything and even the well-established theories. Tim also talks about the dangers of finding data to back up your own hypotheses or misinterpreting the validity of the data sets used for the hypotheses. The latter was shown to be true with both the 2016 UK Brexit Vote and the 2016 US election which showed that the exit polling was skewed in each case. As humans we look for a quick fix, which means we try and search for data that supports our hypothesis. The famous Lebanese mathematician and financier Nassim Taleb debunked some of Six Sigma in his book "Black Swan" after the predictive analytics fuelled the 2008 crash. I love the expression "past performance is not a predictor of future greatness". Margaret also gives great examples that either going to university late in life or starting studies later than the accepted norms will not necessarily hinder achievement. It is our own socially constructed paradigms and cognitive biases that are more likely to hinder us.

So, my big coaching takeaway is to go wide as well as deep. Naturally, we will go deep with our clients as needed, but we need a very broad perspective so that we do not go down a rabbit hole. This also debunks the historical myth that in coaching we need to have a fixed and defined niche, when in fact everything is dynamic such that expertise expands and changes, particularly if we are curious. Neuroscience is now telling us that post 25 years, we can maintain and develop neuroplasticity through brain activity and constant challenge. A huge benefit in potentially stalling the onset of dementia.


We are a boutique coaching firm operating out of London & Cambridge, with a team of internationally based and highly qualified associates. We specialise in dealing with teams in large SME's and corporates. At Team Coaching Boutique we do not believe in a one size fits all approach. We understand that each individual and each team has different needs, motivations, and objectives. Our aim is to provide a unique approach utilising the latest thinking in team coaching.

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