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Don’t believe everything you think

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

What have you changed your mind on? Credit to Dave Stachowiak and his wonderful, “Coaching For Leaders” podcast, for this question. A question Dave always asks his guests at the end of the show. If you were Dave’s guest, how would you answer this question?

As a coach, trainer, and facilitator, I spend a lot of time talking with people. Sharing my experience. And part of that involves sharing some of the things I have learned over my 30+ years career.

In a career this long, you need to be constantly re-learning. Life moves quickly. Yes, we know of the acronym, VUCA, and that we live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world. But, do we know just how VUCA it is?

As a trainer, I have a duty of care to ensure that my skills are up to date. That my experience is relevant. And that what I am sharing is still true, and stands the test of time. As a coach and as a leader I have to show humility and accept that I only know what I think I know. And that this could very well be wrong. Let me give you an example.

Delving into the world of complexity, and how it applies in complex adaptive systems (CAS), which are most of the organisations we all work with, I wanted some tools and frameworks. One go to is the “Stacey Matrix”. And I thought I knew what it looked like. It is this, right?


It turns out what I thought was the Stacey Matrix is actually an adaptation by Brenda Zimmerman. The actual matrix created by the English professor, Ralph Stacey looks like this.

Quite different, I am sure you would agree. Perhaps not as accessible. Or marketable. And this got me thinking. What else might I be sharing that might not be quite as it seems?

Thanks to people who know a lot more than me, I am able to always learn and broaden my knowledge. Nigel Thurlow keeps me honest when it comes to the concepts from Toyota. The concepts a lot of agile people, me included, share.

Who knew that the visual “to-do” boards, the darlings of agile coaches everywhere, are more likely to actually be “Andon” boards, named after the Andon cord, famous in Toyota’s factories. If this is the case, then why do so many people refer to them as “Kanban” boards? Do we have to update our terminology? And deepen our understanding.

I think so. If we are the experts in the room, training. And sharing this stuff, the least we can do is get it right. So, I have made a promise with myself that I will do better. I will check my references. I will make sure the research is relevant.

How many people, and academic textbooks still incorrectly use the “reptile” brain metaphor? The concept that the brain has three parts. The “triune brain”, proposed by neuroscientist Paul MacLean back in the 1960s. That the brain is divided into three layers, developed through stages of evolution. I have used this myself in my sketches.

Of course, thanks to the work of Prof. Lisa Feldman Barrett, and her amazing book, “7 and a half lessons about the brain”, (2021), we now know that this theory has been debunked. We now know so much more about the brain due to the advances of neuroscience. Barrett is now amongst the top 1% of scientists cited throughout the world. We need to be listening.

No longer will I be talking about Kitty Genovese when discussing the “bystander effect”. The truth to the whole story is eye opening.

When talking about how people become corrupted by positions of power, my reference will no longer be the “Stanford Prison Experiment”. It was a hoax.

And before I say, “the research says…” I will be making sure the research still says this.

As I write this article I am reminded of the Dunning Kruger effect. How my competence, and knowledge of my incompetence conflict. Yes, this was until I used my trusty friend, Google Scholar, and discovered we may all be using Dunning Kruger incorrectly. Proof, if I ever needed it, that we all need to “think again”, to quote Adam Grant, (2021).

I need to keep role modelling humility. Admit I might be wrong. It is very likely. If my role is to have people change the way they think, I need to change the way I think.

It all starts with me.

P.S. What thoughts has this article triggered for you? What have you changed your mind on? And, what “taken for granted” piece of research have you since found out doesn’t stand the test of time?

Let’s have a collective show of humility.

Fran is an organisational and leadership coach (ICF ACC, AIECL). Conenct with Fran.


Feldman Barrett, L. (2021). 7 And a Half Lessons About The Brain: Mariner Books.

Grant, A. (2021). Think Again: Random House UK.

Stachowiak, D (host), Coaching For Leaders

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