Learning and Unlearning Revisited

Previously I wrote about executives reacting to Netflix's approach to releasing all of their episodes at one time and the shortcomings of not being more open-minded or curious. After I finished and published the post, I serendipitously discovered a post by Paul Graham that captured the same idea only with more insights and also a way of applying this thinking to your life. Here are some of his points.

The person is as important as the idea.

Paul Graham indicates that if you hear an idea that does not sound plausible, you must understand how reasonable this person is. Do they know how implausible the idea sounds? If they do know how the idea sounds and still have confidence in that idea?  If a person does not seem to understand the context of how the concept sounds, there is a high probability that they may not be correct, and their confidence in this idea is not warranted and their idea ignored. For instance, if Netflix  (a company that revolutionized how people consume content) has an implausible sounding idea on video streaming, maybe we should listen.

Evaluating the idea for high value

Graham thinks of taking risks on these ideas as a series of bets amongst a set of what he calls "implausible-sounding ideas."  This type of thinking makes sense as he is an investor who has to determine how to get the most significant return on their money versus a safer bet that might provide a smaller return.

Although Graham relates most of this to investing, I think we can apply this thinking to anything we need to optimize for a high return.  For instance, companies that would like to transform need to take bets on ideas that could expedite that transformation or commodity products that need to signal unique value.

You might be the one with the crazy-sounding idea.

He indicates that most people are filtering their ideas based on the current dynamics of a given field, business, or thinking. The same forces that hold people back from embracing new ideas are the same that stop them from proposing new ideas to others.  He suggests that very few people can see past the current paradigm and trust the insights that have led to their unique vision.  His advice is to study what people have done in the past to devise an approach to sharing new ideas. He states that having new ideas is a lonely business, and I can bear personal witness to this. We should all keep this in mind as we craft and encounter them.

"Everyone is too much in the grip of the current paradigm. Even the people who have the new ideas undervalue them initially. Which means that before they reach the stage of proposing them publicly, they've already subjected them to an excessively strict filter."

Those were just a few ideas that resonated with me. If this is a subject that you are interested you should read the whole article, I will place the link below. I may disagree with some of Graham's takes, but it is excellent to know that someone experienced as Paul Graham has reached a similar conclusion regarding open-mindedness.

Paul Graham's Essay on Crazy New Ideas

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