Thursday, 22 November 2007

Challenging your own views

Yesterday, I read this interview on The Register with Adam Curtis about how mainstream media are failing to take a lead by paying too much attention to bloggers.

It is quite long (as these things go) but it provoked several trains of thought in me that were not directly the subject of the piece.

One of the themes in the article is the existence of different groups (of bloggers) with fixed viewpoints who refuse to listen to any opposing or alternative viewpoints. The article takes this as a reason why the mainstream media (such as the BBC) choose to tread a middle path between opposing groups rather than trying to form their own view.

My personal lesson from this is the weakness of being too blinkered in ones views. If you hold strong views then it is very easy to keep reinforcing them but in a technical and management arena it is useful to chalenge your own views occasionally. I am in some ways an archetypical 'Guardian' reader and I can be comfortable reading newspaper articles and columnists that agree with me but too much of that breeds complacency so I make a point of reading 'The Independent' quite often to get some opinions that I don't automatically agree with. I have tried reading newpapers with views further away from mine and it is much more difficult to critically assess their views - get too far to the right and I just get angry...

In technical areas, I often take part in discussions with engineers puttng forwards views with which I disagree. In some cases, their view is not that controversial but it is simply not what I wanted to hear because I came to the dscussion with a proposed solution of my own. In other cases, I really do disagree with their view but I make a point of hearing them out and trying to see the value in it, despite my biases. This can require some emotional effort to be patient and objective, particularly when we are working under time pressure or when the engineer presenting his views is doing so clumsily, but I find enough occasions when there is value in the other point of view to keep making the effort.

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