The Power of Unconventional Thinking | David McWilliams | TED

The Power of Unconventional Thinking | David McWilliams | TED

Intro (00:00:00)

  • David McWilliams originally planned to speak early at TED and use the remaining time to relax and be inspired by others' ideas.
  • He relates a change in the schedule to Mike Tyson's quote about plans failing when faced with challenges, humorously noting the extra difficulty of remaining sober.
  • McWilliams remarks that the TED talks collectively deal with the impact of rapid change across various dimensions of life.

The pace of change (00:01:23)

  • Citing Lenin, McWilliams indicates that we experience periods where change is abrupt and significant.
  • He expresses skepticism toward traditional economic tools like graphs and charts for analyzing such change, preferring poetry as his analytical tool.
  • He references W.B. Yeats's poem "The Second Coming" to illustrate how each generation perceives its crises as unique and monumental.

His World is Changing & Things Fall Apart (00:03:30) (00:04:09)

  • McWilliams links historical changes that upended empires and led to Ireland's independence to similar feelings of upheaval today.
  • He quotes Yeats's observation that societal breakdown occurs when traditional structures fail and the extremes dominate over moderates.

The Contrast (00:05:21)

  • The speaker points out Yeats's accurate prediction of political chaos, contrasting it with experts’ failed economic forecasts of the early 20th century.
  • He argues that artists like Yeats can often foresee tipping points better than conventional thinkers because they permit themselves to think unconventionally.

Back to School & Intelligence (00:06:43) (00:07:27)

  • Reflecting back on school, McWilliams discusses how traditional educational systems often fail to recognize multiple forms of intelligence.
  • He laments that many people with diverse skills felt stupid due to the narrow definitions of intelligence in school.

Confirmation Bias (00:09:23)

  • McWilliams talks about confirmation bias in professional settings where employing people who share our biases leads to groupthink.
  • This results in overconfidence and a lack of critical self-assessment, possibly leading to poor decision-making.

The Bank Robbery (00:12:15)

  • He cites the Dunning-Kruger effect, where individuals overestimate their abilities, as exemplified by a humorous anecdote of a would-be bank robber believing he was invisible after covering his face with lemon juice.
  • The effect is observed more in men than in women, an observation McWilliams humorously notes is evident in his family experiences.

The Financial Crisis (00:13:52)

  • Intelligent, overconfident individuals in financial institutions missed the 2008 crisis.
  • The Queen of England questioned experts' failure to foresee the crisis.
  • Conventional thinkers prefer to find proof to support their views rather than change them.
  • Leonard Cohen suggested that flaws ("cracks") are opportunities to understand the big picture.

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