FF Daily #448: How to reverse disconnection from others

August 12, 2021: What’s going wrong with online classes; How long will a ‘fresh start’ effect last; The nuanced art of not knowing

Founding Fuel

[Photo by mauro mora on Unsplash]

Good morning,

In More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources—and What Happens Next, MIT’s Andrew McAfee makes a strong case for capitalism and technological progress as a way to solve some of the toughest problems we face today.

However, even more important than capitalism and technology are citizens themselves—well informed and able to push businesses and the government to do the right thing. However, it’s not easy, especially in these polarized times.

McAfee writes, “One other important thing individuals can do is work to reverse the increasing disconnection we’re experiencing in many societies and communities. This is hard to do because of our innate tribalism and desire to associate with like-minded people. But it’s also easy to do. Social capital can be increased and disconnection decreased in lots of ways. Joining a grassroots political or advocacy movement; volunteering to help vulnerable populations such as disabled veterans, refugees, or elderly people living alone; attending religious services and related activities; and teaching others your skills are all good ways to build links among people.

“It’s important to do these things with members of other tribes—people who we know feel differently from us about important things. And it’s particularly important not to try to win arguments with them. For many of us, the strong tendency when we interact with people who have different beliefs and moral foundations is to quickly try to show them why they’re wrong—why their logic is flawed, their evidence is fake news, and their beliefs are unsupportable. This almost never works. It usually just makes other people dig in their heels and hold on to their existing beliefs even more strongly. A lot of debate and discussion increases disconnection.

“A better way is to start by finding common ground. The psychologist Jonathan Haidt, whose work has been mentioned in prior pages several times already, highlights that people with both liberal and conservative moral foundations believe deeply that we have a responsibility to care. This applies both to other humans and to the rest of the natural world. Few of us are unmoved by the sight of a sick child, a starving animal, or a pile of trash on a beach. So a good way to start building relationships with others, especially with members of distant tribes, is to find out which aspects of the human condition and the state of the world they care most about, then go from there. Doing so can’t hurt and might lead to more connection.”

In this issue

  • What’s going wrong with online classes
  • How long will a ‘fresh start’ effect last?
  • The nuanced art of not knowing

Have a great day!

What’s going wrong with online classes

In the latest edition of Ground Realities, a blog series aimed at understanding what’s happening inside people’s homes, in their lives, Piyul Mukherjee and her team at Quipper Research tell the story of two working moms who wanted holistic development for their kids. 

“Sharonne and Aditi had made a conscious decision to send their kids to a Montessori or a Waldorf school. Having themselves suffered through rote learning, they had wanted to ensure that their daughters got a chance to develop a love of learning. ‘My husband and I wanted holistic development for our child,’ recalls Aditi. ‘Many parents wondered at our choosing an alternative education school; some even asked whether our kid has some development issues. But my daughter loved every day at school and that is all that mattered.’

“With their busy careers they recall being relieved that the school expected very little engagement from the parents and in fact encouraged independent learning.

“Sharonne has fond memories of the pre-pandemic days: ‘In school, they had fun conversations and learnt through songs, music, beats, poetry and structured play. Earlier in a physical lesson, they would often give kids a set of wooden tools. The teacher would then take one such tool-kit and explain mathematical division using them. Now, it’s completely unidimensional with blackboards, chalk, and diktats. My daughter just cannot grasp the concepts.’

“However, as the classes moved online during the pandemic, they are struggling to create an at-home learning experience.” 

But the real victims, Piyul and her team point out, are the kids. Bewildered and lost in a new normal where the joys of play, friendships, curiosity and learning have abruptly paused. Their laughter and silly banter that the schoolroom allowed, is muted.

“The last 18 months have been a very lonely experience for the children. There’s a feeling of suffocation,” they write. They quote two nine-year-olds:

“‘I am really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y bored,’ says Nidhi, ‘I was never ever bored in my life in real school.’

“Anushka has spent the last year hearing words like ‘chemotherapy’, ‘co-morbidities’, ‘ventilators’ and ‘oxygen shortage’. ‘I thought mom would get corona as she has a weak immune system and she has undergone two surgeries. I felt sad and alone and scared.’

“‘I shout into my pillow,’ she says. ‘My pillow is my best friend. I scream into it every night.’”

Dig deeper

How long will a ‘fresh start’ effect last?

Many businesses are preparing to let their workers back to office, mostly in a hybrid mode, with a hope that it will kick-start a new phase blending the best of both worlds. However, the path might not be easy. An essay in Harvard Business Review by Herminia Ibarra, Charles Handy Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, points to research that highlights why this should not be taken lightly. 

“Our ability to take advantage of habit discontinuity depends on what we do in the narrow window of opportunity that opens up after routine-busting changes. One study has found, for example, that the window of opportunity for engaging in more environmentally sustainable behaviours lasts up to three months after people move house. Similarly, research on the ‘fresh start’ effect shows that while people experience heightened goal-oriented motivation after returning to work from a holiday, this motivation peaks on the first day back and declines rapidly thereafter.”

This makes the stage at which we are in right now critical. Ibarra writes, “it’s now up to you to decide whether you will use this period to effect real career change—or whether, instead, you’ll drift back into your old job and patterns as if nothing ever happened.”  

Dig deeper

The nuanced art of not knowing

(Via WhatsApp)

Found anything interesting and noteworthy? Send it to us and we will share it through this newsletter.

And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.

Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there.

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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