The Intelligence Trap – Revolutionise your thinking and make wiser decisions

Author: David Robson

Very important in making decisions is a psychological view of one’s own leadership. Namely a view that prevents you from falling for the “intelligence trap”. What exactly is that?

In fact, the intelligence trap is a direct result of some people’s inability to think outside of their expectations, to come up with an alternative view of the world where their decision is wrong rather than right. People with very high intelligence are more subjected to this than people with moderate intelligence. Nobel laureates sometimes suffer from this, so often that there is a term for it: “Nobel disease ”.

An active intervention to this pitfall can make use of so-called “ evidence- based wisdom ”. This can be imparted to all ages and to anyone, although one is more likely to benefit from it with moderate intelligence.

A first step is to understand what wisdom is. A definition of “wisdom” is: “he is wise who recognized the limits of his own knowledge” (Socrates) . Apart from that, good factual knowledge and training remain important.

Very dangerous is the fragility of the expert. For example, by relying heavily on schemes and protocols, which one must have, he may have trouble adapting to changes in the environment. Flexibility is therefore important. Personal bias is also a problem. One step towards a solution is to adapt the own thinking. This can already be done by reading about it, with inspiring examples. Placing a beginner with another, detailed, view is also an advantage because he or she does not yet know the patterns and therefore sees and can indicate differences in details of the case with regard to the general rule. It can also be done by taking a distant position. An example of this is the listing and quotation of important aspects of a situation or object, spread over several days. In addition, being able to listen to your own emotional compass is an advantage. This has to do with being able to relate the events in your environment and your (gut) feeling in the right way. After all, being able to spot deliberately crafted bullshit is a necessary skill. To this end, the author provides a list of some methods by which false truths are sometimes told.

What can save us from the pitfall are: cognitive reflection, intellectual humility, active “open- minded ” thinking, curiosity, refined emotional awareness and a “ growth mindset ”. We find these things in the nine virtues of the Intellectual Virtues Academy. These are divided into three categories as follows:

Getting started

Curiosity: the opportunity to be amazed and to investigate and ask the “why” question. A thirst for understanding and a desire to explore.

Intellectual humility: the willingness to recognize one’s own limits and mistakes, regardless of intellectual status or prestige.

Intellectual Autonomy: Having the ability for active autonomous and self-guided thinking. The ability to reason and think for oneself.

Executing well

Attention: to be there with your thoughts 100% on the matters of the learning process. Keep distractions at bay. Be with the thoughts and commitment completely on top of the topic.

Intellectual carefulness: the ability to notice and avoid intellectual pitfalls. A commitment to accuracy.

Intellectual thoroughness: the ability to seek and find explanations. Dissatisfaction with rather apparent or superficial and (too) simple explanations. Reaching for a deeper meaning and understanding.

Handling challenges

Open- mindedness : an capacity to think outside the box. Responds honestly to competing perspectives.

Intellectual Courage: Being ready to persevere in thinking or communicating with the risk of fear of being embarrassed or of failure.

Intellectual tenacity: a will to face an intellectual challenge and struggle. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up.

These aspects of the eternal learning mindset apply to an individual, but how do you put together a ‘dream team’? It depends.

If you have a team where everyone has to do things clearly separately, without overlapping job content, then you can use a team of top players: there is no competition.

If you have to put together a team of competitors, where there is overlapping job content , then it is important that they are not all toppers, only about 60% are toppers, but then teamwork, being in tune with each other, weighs more.

With a crisis team, any type of crisis team, it’s the best of both worlds. In a CRT (Crisis Respons Team), for example the company fire service team, it is clearly the second. At a CET (Crisis Expert Team, where a team member might handle a file from A to Z , it might be the first. But with the CMT (Crisis Management Team), where there is little or no overlap between the participants, but there is still a need to work together because people must be able to rely on each other’s results, it is a pure cross: you need 100% toppers, but they also have to be able to work with each other. In the latter case, intellectual humility is an issue, because in this team one often has to deal with high profiles who “know very well what they are worth”. Antibodies against this are exercises in which people learn to share information and are assessed on the integration of each other’s point of view in their own thinking.

A change of mentality that can be useful to contribute positively to this is to initiate discussions throughout the hierarchy, between the different layers of the hierarchy, and to recognize and hear people as experts in the field of, for example, their own ideas about occupational safety.

Also not to be ignored is the use of statistics from near misses. After all, it has been statistically proven that a serious event is preceded by a number of near misses. That was the case with the Challenger , with the Columbia, (NASA) but actually also Covid-19 was preceded by, among others, SARS and MERS. There was a failure to learn lessons and to implement them into the future, or to persist in these lessons learned. For that you need the mentality of a “high reliability ” organization. It has been shown for this type of organization (research by Karl Weick & Kathleen Sutcliffe ) that they exhibit the following characteristics:

Expect to Fail: Employees go to work and every day can be a bad day. But the organization rewards employees for reporting their mistakes.

Reluctance to simplify interpretations: employees are rewarded for questioning assumptions, and for being skeptical of the wisdom of others.

Sensitivity to operations: Team members continue to communicate and interact to increase their understanding of the situation and look for the actual origin of each anomaly.

Commitment to resilience : acquiring the necessary knowledge and resources to bounce back after a negative event. This includes the ‘pre mortems ‘ and the discussions of near misses.

Respect for expertise: here the open communication between different layers of the hierarchy is important, and the intellectual humility of those at the top.

Disinformation and Covid-19

Author: Manu Steens

A friend wrote me an email. He cited a number of websites and wrote:

” I must say, I believe less and less the prevailing views from the mainstream media … ”

By the mainstream media he meant, I understand, those media that let the authorities speak. He also provided a video message from ‘ the-iceberg ‘ and a Dutch version of it , as an alternative . These provide information that is contrary to the message of, yes, our governments.

In my view a case of misinformation.

But how do you recognize misinformation when people with a high IQ fall for it time and time again?

There are some basic rules that you can keep in mind when it comes to communication. Some should be used more in all communication, others should not:

  1. Simple words , not too much expert language.
  2. Support the spoken and / or written text with visual material.
  3. Use recognizable statements that could have been heard elsewhere ( familiarity )
  4. Use ” fluency ” : how easily something can be processed by the brain, eg text in an easy to read font .
  5. References to experts, but not to their work, which is difficult to trace.
  6. Use people’s gullibility to really get to know it all. (eg by an easy and associative name like ‘ the iceberg ‘: people become curious about what lies beneath the surface).
  7. Using figures without framing it, or material and images that are even irrelevant.
  8. Repetition of the desired statement.
  9. Use a good speaking rhythm to make it interesting. (The infotainment effect)

The video messages can be seen on:  (English) (Dutch version)

When I analyze the Dutch version, I have the following reservations:

They remain very vague in terms of “the independent scientists”: I don’t know any myself. Each of the experts is paid by an interested party. So I don’t think there are any of them “independent”. Every top research is either sponsored by a government (often via universities) or by a (in this case mostly pharmaceutical) company.

So far the independence of the scientists they claim to cite. On the English website there is a whole list of names with impressive titles . No reference whatsoever to their relevant work on which they claim to be relying.

Furthermore, statistics are shown of the number of deaths per 1 000 000 inhabitants. This is not scientific, because every country counts differently. Besides, the correlation with lock -down, which they claim to show that would be zero, cannot be demonstrated that way.

The number of corona deaths counted according to WHO is for Belgium 10x that of the flu deaths counted according to WHO standards. A factor of 10: that is an order of magnitude larger, and it is not over yet. So it is not comparable to a ‘simple flu’ . That was one of the first misconceptions that was common in Europe, and of which no one knows where it originated.

The medication which “has been proven to work” according to the video, has been shown not to work. Yet this is maintained, as if someone has to get rid of a large stock. The fact that this has the chance to further become its own self-fulfilling prophecy is due to the fact that for a long time it was incorrectly predicted to be the solution. After all, repetition makes it recognizable.

This video scores very high in terms of infotainment content, but it is the wrong info. And in addition, in infotainment in general, they often make fun of science. For example, it is incorrectly claimed in the video that the lockdown would have been imposed only after the flattened peak, which they say is a “normal seasonal epidemic event”.


Support for provincial measures during Covid-19 – a case

Author: Manu Steens

Corona times are special times. Nobody can deny that now, except for possible total deniers. And in English they say: “Desperate times call for desperate measures ” (Said to be words of Hippocrates). When this is said, it means that actions that seem extreme may (under normal circumstances) be appropriate in times of adversity and calamity.

The real problem is in the word “may”. After all, even in times of calamity, support is needed. And how do we measure support? I previously wrote about a tool that I created to make a visual assessment of the support for actions by governments, namely at the GDPR and at Brexit .

See also:

However, these were only two cases, so now I am trying out the (now adapted) tool on the measures for the population of the province of Antwerp . Actually it is wrong from the beginning what I am doing, because for a balanced answer I would have to conduct a survey among a relevant number of citizens . But I avoid this error by stating that this is my opinion, a personal assessment of the situation. Based on indicators that I created based on other cases. That presumption goes as follows:

Legitimacy: The province of Antwerp makes use of the legislation and works together with jurists from various government agencies. The legitimacy of a number of actions is disputed, but the complaints do not currently seem to be of the heavy caliber and appear to be rebuttable. Score: +

Cohesion of the target group by proximity of the issue to the target group: The actions are strongly felt by the population. People ask themselves whether that ban on fun shopping really should be, because shopping should still be fun … In the street scene, I hear various sighs. But most seem to think negative when someone has no intention of wearing his on the bus, but there is no one reprimanded by fellow citizens. When does the wrong thing, it remains a matter for law enforcement. Score: o

Effectiveness : With the latest results viewed day by day, it seems to be going in the right direction in Antwerp hospitals. The fact that the measures are largely the same throughout the province also seems to prevent population shifts. As well as preventing the potential infections that go with it. Score: a cautious + subject to the trend continuing.

Targeting: There are of course entirely – deniers even the existence of covid-19 deny yourself. There are also machos who do not take the advice of the elbow strike seriously, and who absolutely want to shake hands. It turns out that quite a lot of Bart De Wever’s also eat in the restaurants and taverns. However, the majority of the population takes the measures seriously. Measures such as testing and tracing will be fine-tuned further. But is there more to be explored than enforcing the rules, or are there also alternative options? Score: o.

Efficiency: The PCC Antwerp (Provincial Crisis Center) runs on very flexible people, and the population has also shown itself to be largely flexible. For example, there was an emotional urge among citizens to want to wear a mask, despite original dissuasion. Now a mask is required all over the province, and citizens have agreed. Score: +

Perseverance: The PCC Antwerp team ‘goes for it’. The members contribute topics themselves and give their opinion freely. This criterion is more difficult to assess for citizens. But with the slightest weakening of the measures, a whole lot of freedom was taken. As a result, by wanting to be too social as one of the factors, it could be that this flare-up was increased. Score: –

Leadership: People should look up to experts. And there are indeed many (types of) experts involved. Not only masters in their field, but top people from universities. Some of them have been burned in the eyes of a number of the civilians, but the same citizens seem to be looking for whom they do want to trust as experts. Furthermore, the governor himself is being looked at: we have to wait and see how she will come out of this battle. Score: ++

Internalized: There are things that have been shown to work in the past. However, is the citizen motivated to comply with the measures, or are loopholes to be found quickly in the new measures ? That is still unclear at the moment. That is why I leave this score blank: blank.

Reputation: The question here is whether the citizens has a good or bad feeling in this situation in all its aspects and whether they are on an individual level involved. That also seems unclear to me at the moment. That is why I leave this score blank.


In summary , the score in the tool will look like this:

Conclusion: I feel that the situation is largely supported by the population of Antwerp, although much may depend on the results in the coming weeks. The situation should be reviewed anyway after the period of 4 weeks that has been set, or after serious interventions that would occur.