Tuesday, 10 March 2020

ARTICLE 12 - Part 1: Problem #7 - Incorrect Global Perception

Viable Underdogs concerns itself with anything that is a Type 1, or global, issue. You can check an outline of all Viable Underdogs books and materials in this post:

Book Links & Other Viable Underdogs Material

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Parts 2 and 3 of this article can be found here: 

Article 12 - Part 2: Social Media Amplification

Article 12 - Part 3: Proof of Compromised Global Communication Channels

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Problem #7: Incorrect Global Perception

In the book, Uncage Human Ingenuity (and in the Podcast), I highlighted the main problems that have contributed to our Sustainability Crisis. The six problems identified are:

1) The Slow Acceptance of New Ideas (which you may notice is the foundation of the book, Renegades of Disruption).

2) Compromised Communication (which you may notice is the foundation of the book, Uncage Human Ingenuity).

3) Bureaucratic Inefficiency present in fields throughout the globe including science, politics, and Academia (which will be the basis of the upcoming book, The Paradox of Civilizations).

4) The Emotions Associated with Change and the Kubler-Ross Change Curve. See Podcast Episodes 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 25, 31, & 35. (These are known as Chapters 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 25, 31, & 35 of the book, A type 1 Unfreeze Chain Letter, which is an audiobook I converted into a podcast. A written version of the Podcast-Audiobook is also available in the above link.

5) Global Cooperation (or the lack thereof. See Part 4 of Uncage Human Ingenuity. Free download with the above link).

6) Strict Usage of Terminology. See Part 3 of Uncage Human Ingenuity. (Free download at above link).

Every time I present the list, I mention that I may add more problems to it as I gain more insight into my Global Diagnostic (which is still technically being performed). I had previously combined the problem of ‘Incorrect Perception’ with Problem #2, Compromised Communication, since the incorrect global perception is largely created from compromised global communication.

However, I have decided to separate perception from communication as its own problem, since the incorrect perception makes the ‘sale’ of these ideas so much harder. Problem #8: “Education” has also been added, and I will dive into that in different articles and books. Here’s one such article:

Article 11: 3BL, Incentives, & Urgency

Although I often joke about having succumbed to madness due to the ideas I present, it’s not really me that’s crazy (well, overly crazy anyway), it’s the ideas I present that appear wild and crazy.

The incorrect 'global perception' that is outlined in this article is something I claim that every human being is currently affected by. And, that’s quite the crazy idea to sell. After all, if you’re reading this, I claim you yourself are also affected. This is a bold and arguably insane statement to make, and yet, I can provide a body of evidence to support this claim. I know how it sounds.

If my claim is that everyone is affected by a problem but me, and I blame two culprits (entire global professional fields in this case) for the source of this problem (underfunded and irresponsible journalists + academics), then it wouldn’t surprise me if I was accused of ‘tilting at windmills.’ In other words, it might all be my imagination. As always, that’s up to you to decide. I can only present the evidence for my case…


A Cruise Ship Analogy (at least it’s not another car analogy ;) )

Let’s say you and I are passengers are a very large ocean cruise ship. I have discovered that the alarm systems on this ship are not operational. This is worrisome, but if there are no emergencies that arise during the voyage, then no real consequences will result. However, during this voyage, a few random passengers come up to tell us a small fire has started in one of the rooms at the other end of the ship. Keep in mind, this ship is huge, so if you and I take the time to confirm the fire, it will already have spread. That’s what the alarm system is for. The problem is the alarm is broken. By the time the fire has spread enough that people start to take the problem seriously, it’s too late. The fire is too far gone, and the only option is to abandon ship.

That’s what is happening to our planet right now. To be clear, the problem is likely still manageable. Though, very soon, it no longer will be, and our ability to communicate this global ‘alarm’ is compromised. Here, our analogy continues, but replace ‘fire’ with ‘sustainability’ (or ‘climate change,’ or ‘global warming,’) and replace ‘cruise ship’ with ‘Planet Earth.’

As mentioned, the fire has started, the fire alarm is not working, and verifying the fire yourself would take too long. 30 seconds after the first group of people tell you about the fire, another group comes along saying that there never was a fire. It was merely a bartender making flaming coffees for some patrons. Then 30 seconds after that, staff aboard the cruise ship announce over the speaker system that there is a fire. Then, 30 seconds after that, other staff announce over the speaker system that there was a fire, but it was already put out. Then 30 seconds after that, the Captain of the cruise liner starts telling people to begin evacuation….

The broken alarm system and subsequent poor communication of the crisis (the fire) would likely cause an incorrect perception on the cruise ship. The passengers would then likely be confused as to whether there is a crisis occurring or not. This will affect the perception they have and will strongly influence their subsequent behaviour and actions.

On the subject of sustainability and the climate crisis, this is exactly what is happening, except that this has been going on for many years. The Fall of Journalism (See: Renegades of Disruption) has created an incorrect perception in our world. Although we are in a crisis, and we are calling it a crisis, the perception does not appear to agree with the reality. Some sources tell us there is a crisis, others say there is a problem, but it’s not a crisis, and others say there is no problem. The broken communication has resulted in a weird perception where no one is 100% certain of the existence or severity of the sustainability problem.

This incorrect perception can result in different emotions within the general public based on the news source(s) they visit the most. Those who depend on news sites that focus on what far less than 5% of scientists are saying (NASA, N.D.) are likely in strong denial of the problem. We discuss these emotions when we explored the Kubler-Ross Change Curve (See: Uncage Human Ingenuity & Podcast-Audiobook- AKA: A Type 1 Unfreeze-Chain Letter).


Price-Gouging During Crises

During a crisis, or in preparation for one, the market transitions to a Seller’s Market. For instance, prior to a hurricane hitting a coastal city, businesses selling supplies, such as water, batteries, and flashlights ( or facemasks in epidemics/pandemics etc.), can vastly increase the prices they charge under normal, non-crisis, times. This isn’t to comment on the ethics and morals of extorting a crisis in such a way, but there is no mistaking that this is a Seller’s Market. Ethics or no, if you and your family need these supplies, you’re likely to fork out far more cash for them than you would under normal circumstances.


Global Public Perception Has Been Actively Changed Before

Perception and reality can often overlap one another in strange ways, and marketing experts work tirelessly to alter people’s Perceived Value (Kopp, C., 2019). This is the concept behind Brand Loyalty. Some customers are willing to pay more for a product simply because a company name is associated with it. They have a high Perceived Value for these companies and their products, and this has nothing to do with the reality of whether the products or companies are better than competitors

DeBeers utilized a massively successful marketing campaign in the 1940’s to change public perception that diamonds were far more valuable and rarer than they are (Sullivan, J., 2013.). Diamonds are the most common type of precious gemstones. Prior to this marketing campaign, engagement rings were associated with rubies and sapphires, not diamonds.

This public perception is so ingrained into our culture, that even though this isn’t really a secret, it doesn’t do a whole lot to sway people from buying diamonds. So, what were saying is you’re not off the hook if your sweety likes diamonds.

In other words, DeBeers successfully transitioned the perception, and therefore the market, on diamonds. Prior to their marketing campaign, diamonds could be said to be in a Buyer’s Market, meaning that buyers had more control since the desirability of diamonds was much lower. Following the DeBeers campaign (and the artificial restriction of supply), the perception, and market, on diamonds has since been permanently altered to a Seller’s Market. The desirability, and therefore perceived value, of diamonds increased dramatically, and thus the sellers charge exorbitant amounts of money for something that would not be worth the same under normal circumstances. No different than businesses who price-gouge in our hurricane crisis scenario.

Effective communication, marketing in this case, has the ability to almost permanently alter perceptions in our world, and can spin a perception into a reality, sometimes even becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.



Here is general public PERCEPTION on sustainability:
Sustainability is kind of important. We want it addressed, but we don’t want too much to change while we address it.

Here is the REALITY:

Sustainability is a crisis, bordering on becoming a full-on global catastrophe. Immediate global change is necessary to prevent the collapse of modern civilization.


There are two main reasons this has occurred: Compromised communication channels (Due to factors like the Fall of Journalism and Social Media Feedback Loops (Amplification) - See Uncage Human Ingenuity) and ineffective education. We will explore education in more detail in the upcoming book, The Paradox of Civilizations, but right now I want to focus on how this has caused an incorrect perception worldwide due to Global Cognitive Dissonance occurring on sustainability.

In essence, the communication that ‘we are in a crisis’ and the education on ‘why/how we are in a crisis’ have both not successfully occurred. How do I know this? Well, do your behaviour and actions correspond on the subject of sustainability as though it has escalated into a crisis? How about everyone else on your life? Are the overwhelming amount of people in your life behaving as though there is a ‘hurricane approaching,’ or ‘that there is a fire on a cruise ship?’


Global Cognitive Dissonance (See Renegades of Disruption - Part 4)


This is something that was not included in Uncage Human Ingenuity, since the more I reflect upon certain problems, the more I come up with different methods of sharing these ideas.

In terms of the story of sustainability, we can cluster all the global news sources into one of three categories: Those who deny the severity of the problem (or deny it altogether), those who accept there is a problem, but are not effectively communicating it as though it is crisis, and those that communicate it as though there is a crisis. Here is a diagram to visually display this idea, and for the record, I am implying that no news source is overly reliable these days, so please hold judgment on the examples of news sites I included.



All three of these messages ("no problem exists," "problem exists," and "it’s a global crisis") are sent through communication channels throughout the world, and these conflicting messages are being diffused in a very unique way since no one really knows which message is accurate. Then, the emotional reactions tend to correspond to what each of the source messages is indicating, and can be plotted along the Kubler-Ross Change Curve (see: Uncage Human Ingenuity for more details). These are all concepts pulled from the field of Change Management, then laterally applied to the subject of sustainability.


Buyer’s Market vs. Seller’s Market

We can further explore the idea that the perception on sustainability is incorrect by evaluating the products and services associated with sustainability. This is similar to how Real Estate cycles between Buyer’s Markets and Seller’s Markets. A home sold during a Seller’s Market will fetch a higher price and will sell quickly, whereas a home sold during a Buyer’s Market will fetch a lower price and typically takes longer to sell. The important thing to note is that it’s not always exactly a black and white thing. That ‘Market’ is also on a spectrum. I know this because I used to work in home sales. Salespeople often tell customers we are in a hot market (usually salespeople never admit to being in a ‘cooled-down’ market or Buyer’s Market), but there’s a whole grey area on that. An area may indeed be ‘hot’ for a particular salesperson, but overall sales can be low within the entire company. And a lot of salespeople also succumb to same types of human behaviour biases we outlined and Renegades of Disruption. It’s just human nature. Some of us live in reality, others live in ‘la la land.’ You have to decide which I belong in. That decision is, as always, yours to make. I can only present the evidence for my case.

There are a variety of factors that determine whether it is a Buyer’s Market or Seller’s Market. However, the important thing to remember is all these factors combine to create this perception. In essence, what determines the type of market is public perception.

Let’s assume for a second that the United Nations, NASA, the Vatican, National Geographic and countless other organizations out there are correct (See: ‘List of organizations calling it a crisis’ in Part 6: Global Urgency of Uncage Human Ingenuity) and we are indeed in a long-term Sustainability Crisis.

Should the fact that we are in a crisis mean that anything to sustainability is now in a Seller’s Market? This means that energy auditors, sustainability consultants, and other green solutions should all have buyers lined up, particularly as many of these services and products are still profitable over the long-term.

However, this is not the case. We are not in a Sustainability Seller’s Market, because most people don’t realize we are in a crisis. The perception has shifted to be so far removed from reality that a significant portion of our global population don’t even realize there is a problem. These errors in communication all add up to create what you see: a world on the verge of collapse, and a perception that gives the impression that nothing is really all that wrong.

To be clear, this is not targeted exclusively at climate change deniers. This is aimed at everyone, because this communication and consequent perception problem has affected you too. Everyone is affected by this because we are very social animals. If a fire alarm is going off in a building and everyone is behaving as though there is no problem, this in turn, will cause others to think there is no problem as well. It doesn’t matter whether there is an emergency or not.

The incorrect perception will provide a false sense of security until those problems become impossible to ignore (in the case of the cruise ship, that’s the time the ship is completely engulfed in flames). Unfortunately, that is usually when the problem is the hardest to deal with, and it could even mean that many people die if the reality of the situation is different from the perception: that there is a fire.

The reality of sustainability is also different from the perception: That this is a Crisis. A Long-Term Global Crisis with a world unable to send an effective message due to all the errors I have already pointed out.


Examples indicating Sustainability is a Buyer’s Market (Not perceived as a crisis)

In Uncage Human Ingenuity, it is mentioned that the global perception of sustainability is incorrect. We are in a Buyer’s Market and not a Seller’s Market, which means, in this case, no one is lining up to purchase goods or services known to profitably increase sustainability. Here’s an example from an engineer I interviewed who worked at a firm that specializes in energy efficiency, and the reduction of Greenhouses Gases (GHG’s). (This was included in the written version of the Podcast-Audiobook, A Type 1 Unfreeze-Chain Letter):

I will read you some of the exchange we had with this engineering firm over email. This is an organization that specializes in increasing efficiency, thereby lowering greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere, thereby increasing sustainability, and this is often done in a manner that is cost-effective. In the long run, these clients can often save money and be more sustainable.

As this engineer mentioned:

“In general, there are more cost effective savings for bigger customers: Industry tends to have the cheapest, then commercial/institutional, then residential. But all of these are areas with potential for improvement.”

There are two questions we posed them that we will share with you now:

Here was the first one we sent:

Question:

“Does your company typically need to promote or ‘sell’ its services to clients, or do you find most of the clients seek out these types of services?”

Answer:
“We definitely sell.”

[Further indicating, this is a Buyer’s Market. In a Seller’s Market, a seller does not have to try very hard to sell their products].

Second question:

“Is there anything in your field you wish the general public knew more about?”

Answer:

The problems are almost never technical. 
By that, I mean that we know how to reduce energy & GHG emissions cost-effectively in the built environment (at least in buildings...sometimes it *is* technical in big industry). Where efficiency doesn't happen, it's not usually for technical reasons. It's due to things like a lack of understanding; lack of available capital; "split-incentives" when the person that pays for a retrofit isn't the one that pays the bill (think of someone that rents a house, but pays the bills); or plain old inertia”

If you think I cherry-picked one example for my claim on incorrect perception, how about an example pulled from the textbook, Management (Fourth edition), I have often referenced:

The textbook mentions a poll that was conducted on 729 global business leaders to prioritize the 10 challenges facing them in the coming year. Sustainability was ranked near the bottom in 9th place. There are then two suggestions the authors provided as an explanation. On one end, it is suggested that sustainability is still not placed on equal footing to profits. On the other end, it suggests that these businesses “may be acting in confidence that sustainability isn’t a crisis anymore” or that “business leaders believe their firms have sustainability issues under control.”

[Alright boys and girls, you heard 'em, the crisis is over. Let’s all go home].

OR, does it just look a lot like my previous analogy in terms of conflicting messages. This is simply another contradicting message on the subject of the Sustainability Crisis:

As mentioned before, the fire has started, the fire alarm is not working, and verifying the fire yourself would take too long. 30 Seconds after the first group of people tell you about the fire, another group comes along saying that there never was a fire. It was merely a bartender making flaming coffees for some patrons. Then 30 seconds after that, staff aboard the cruise ship announce over the speaker system that there is a fire. Then, 30 seconds after that, other staff announce over the speaker system that there was a fire, but it was already put out. Then 30 seconds after that, the Captain of the cruise liner starts telling people to begin evacuation….


No wait. Our bad, the Crisis is over. Wait, it isn’t... Wait, it is….Wait, it isn’t…

The $5000 Sustainability Challenge

As I have mentioned throughout a lot of this work, it’s often been quite difficult to get any useful feedback on my work and research. One of the comments I have heard a couple times is that this style of ‘meta’ commentary where 'I bitch about my experiences with presenting these ideas’ is somewhat annoying to some readers and listeners. So much that some responded to say that they wouldn’t listen to anything else (See: EPISODE 41 on the Podcast, which is technically Episode -4).

The reason I leave this commentary is to provide further evidence of the slow acceptance of new ideas, and also ‘cause of how amusing I find this all: A world-changing idea to a known global problem and no one willing to entertain me long enough for me to present it. Then, I write a book on how others in the past have experienced this same problem. The ‘meta’ may be annoying now, but I assure you if, and hopefully when, I locate future listeners and readers, it should prove quite entertaining. It has also helped me gain more insight into the perception problem. After all, if we are in a global Sustainability Crisis, and a person says they have solutions to this crisis and they are willing to challenge people 5 thousand dollars of their own money in an attempt to gain an audience, wouldn’t the complete lack of response also be indicative of an incorrect perception? I even offered to pay any journalist I reached out to for their time in order to entertain my claims long enough for me to be given a chance to present my evidence.

Even if you think some of my ‘sales’ tactics were a bit on the greasy side (like the $5000 Sustainability Challenge), if we were indeed in a Seller’s Market, then these types of tactics should have yielded some results, right? Greasy or no, these are proven strategies that do work, particularly in Seller’s Markets. But, sadly, we’re not in a Seller's Market. While I admit I have decent sales skills, I’m being asked to make the hardest sale there is - the sale of a disruptive idea with an incorrect global perception. And I have known far better salespeople than me over the years. I’d love their input, but on my own, baby ;)

I also have a lot of things to do at once. I am writing these books, while simultaneously still performing active research, while I still hassle people with different ways to try and ‘sell’ these ideas, even while I was travelling. Then I am trying to stay on top of other Type 1 problems. And during all this I also had to make all those videos (which take me forever - that lateral thinking one probably took me 30 - 40 hours of time. Maybe you could have done it quicker, but I am learning how to do all this. I don’t know jack about podcasting, recording software, or writing books, formatting books, creating YouTube videos, doing research, etc.). This was my ‘job’ for over two years. It has now become a mere hobby to preserve my sanity. I don’t work for free for forever. I’ve got bills to pay too.

It’s not my intent to be ‘meta,’ but if these types of ideas ever do gain any sort of traction, these types of meta comments could also provide some insights on how to prevent this from occurring in the future. 
 [At least I’m not as annoying as Navi, “Hey! Listen!”].


Journalists making similar claims to what I present here

To add icing to this cake of evidence I have so far provided, here is a very recent opinion piece from a journalist that presents similar ideas to what I present in this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/05/governments-coronavirus-urgent-climate-crisis

He compares our current long-term Sustainability Crisis (a crisis that spans years or decades) to a short-term crisis. Bear in mind, these are global problems, so the time spans increase a fair bit when comparing it to more localized crises like our cruise ship or hurricane crises. Although our global ability to communicate short-term crises is less compromised, check out this article I wrote to read more about the same problems occurring with the current coronavirus as the problems occurring in our Sustainability Crisis (Errors in communication, a lack of clear leadership, etc.):

Article 10: An outbreak of Terrible Communication & Leadership


Make sure to read Uncage Human Ingenuity for more info on how our ability to communicate a long-term crisis like sustainability, is compromised, much like what some journalists appear to be suggesting.


Check Engine Light (CEL)

As an alternate way to present the idea of the ‘cruise ship fire,’ I’ll go back to my favourite analogy: vehicles. Any modern car comes equipped with a way of notifying the driver of problems occurring in the driveline. One of these is the check engine light. Here’s a quick rundown on its different operations:

Upon startup, the CEL performs a self-check and turns on for a couple seconds, then shuts off. If it continues to stay illuminated after the self-check, this indicates there is a problem that should get checked out. The urgency of how quickly this has to be checked out really has to do with the source of the problem. Some problems are fairly inert (in terms of damage to your vehicle), so you could arguably drive with the check engine light on for years without any problems (so long as you don’t care about the additional emissions now being introduced into the environment by your vehicle).

However, once the check engine light is flashing, it means serious damage is likely to occur soon. If a check engine light is flashing, the vehicle is likely running terribly and should be brought to a technician ASAP.


Earth’s ‘Flashing Check Engine Light’

I have compared our world to an engine in Uncage Human Ingenuity and the Podcast-Audiobook. In this case, academics and journalists are the “check engine light” that notify the world to potential problems (Part of the Role of Information). Throughout the twentieth century, our planet’s check engine light was illuminated, indicating that there was a problem that should get addressed at some point.

Here is a fact-checked news article dating back to 1912, over a century ago, indicating climate change was a problem:

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/1912-article-global-warming/

If we are comparing Earth to a very large engine, I have now presented evidence indicating that Earth’s ‘check engine light’ has been on for over a century.

At the turn of the 21st century, two things changed: The first is that The Fall of Journalism means that Earth’s CEL is no longer capable of notifying us with updates on its status. This becomes more troubling due to the second thing that has changed: According to responsible journalists and academics all around the world, not only is Earth’s check engine light still on, it has started flashing. 




2018 United Nations Crisis Message

In September 2018, the United Nations delivered a ‘sonic boom SOS’ crisis message to the world regarding sustainability and the climate crisis. Here’s the first three lines of this message:

“Dear friends of planet Earth,
Thank you for coming to the UN Headquarters today.
I have asked you here to sound the alarm.”


The perception is off, and this, I claim, has affected every human being on our globe. So, the question is: have I made a strong enough case in all of my work to encourage you to share and forward these ideas (thereby initiating the Unfreeze-Chain Letter)?

Once this Unfreeze-Chain Letter is underway, my claim is it will correct the communication and education problems occurring all around the globe. The reason for this isn’t magic. As Rama Nemani, the NASA scientist, mentions back in Episode 12, “Once people realize there is a problem, then tend to fix it.”


Incentives

In ARTICLE 11 of this blog, I briefly discussed the idea of incentives, and how many people require some kind of incentive to undergo change. However, if we are indeed in a Buyer’s Market for sustainability, it means the incentives to implement change required for sustainability have been largely removed. This is not to say it affects every person the same, but it will drastically affect the rate of change to overcome this sustainability problem.
As your only Global Systems Technician or Global Systems consultant, the question I have for you in this article is:
Do you (and everyone else in your life) realize the severity of the Sustainability Crisis? Do our global attitudes and behaviours match those that you would find in any other crisis? Are we in a Seller’s Market, much like the sale of face masks in the coronavirus ‘crisis?’

Or should I change the name attached to these books from ‘Viable Underdogs’ to ‘Don Quixote?’ Carlos can be my Rocinante, and I’ll update you later regarding my Dulcinea. Maybe Wonder Woman? 



#YouBuying?
#ViableUnderdogs


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References


Jones, O., (2020). The Guardian. Why don’t we treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as coronavirus?
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/05/governments-coronavirus-urgent-climate-crisis

Kasprak, A., (2016). Snopes. Did a 1912 newspaper article predict global warming?
https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/1912-article-global-warming/


Kopp, C., (2019). Investopedia. Perceived Value.


NASA, (N.D.). Scientific Consensus: Earths Climate is warming.


Schermerhorn, J., Wright, B.,& Bachrach, D., (2017). Management. Fourth Canadian Edition. Wiley.


Secretary-Generals remarks on climate change [as delivered]. (2018). United Nations. 


Sullivan, J., (2013). The New York Times. How diamonds became forever.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilting_at_windmills_(disambiguation)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote



All of the following books are available for free PDF download in the link provided at the start of this article:

Viable Underdogs (2020). A Type 1 Unfreeze-Chain Letter: Laterally Applying Management Concepts To Correct Compromised Global Communication Channels. 

Viable Underdogs. (2020). Renegades of Disruption: How To Overcome Humanity's Overwhelming Resistance to Change & New Ideas.  

Viable Underdogs. (2019). Uncage Human Ingenuity: A Realistic. Profitable Global Transition to Sustainability Within 10 Years.

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