Unintended consequences – are certain thinking styles responsible?

Here in the UK, In October 2015, the government introduced a policy making all large stores charge 5p for single use carrier bags. The driving force behind this policy was the large number of single use plastic bags that were in the environment, not just littering, but posing a real danger to wildlife due to entangling creatures and being mistaken as a food source by aquatic birds and mammals. The aim of the policy was to significantly reduce the number of single use bags and, as a consequence, total plastic manufactured and handed out to shoppers as they switched to long-lasting bags instead (so-called bags for life)

In 2017, a review was done of the previous 12 months to see if the policy had worked. On the surface it looked as if it had – single use bag usage was down by a fifth. However, a deeper analysis of the use of plastic bags in general was less reassuring. In fact, it would seem that a lot of people use bags for life just as they did the single use bags. What’s more, the majority of bags for life sold were also plastic of a much heavier type, so in fact, as one supermarket managing director admitted, despite an overall reduction in the number of bags sold, the amount of plastic used overall had increased!

It is also the case that single use bags are fully recyclable (not all bags for life are) and all major supermarkets would accept them back to send to be recycled. The real problem was that many people didn’t recycle them and so the bags were discarded into the environment through landfill and litter. Many people didn’t know that supermarkets accepted them back for recycling. Also, the additional cost of bags for life and their general lack of quality meant that they weren’t valued as significantly different from single use bags. Therefore the real problem seems to be more about public awareness and behaviour than about single use bags themselves.

Not such a success then. An unintended consequence.

When I read about this, I couldn’t help but wonder what thinking styles might have been behind the policy. Were there particular metaprogrammes that led to the unfortunate outcome? My initial thoughts are that perhaps the policy was developed by people with a high Detail metaprogramme. This could lead to a focus on the initial reported problem of single use bags in the environment and so decide that the question to be answered was “How do we reduce the number of single use bags handed out?”. In contrast, people with a high Concept metaprogramme might have instead asked “Why are there so many plastic bags in the environment? The first question focuses firmly on the very specific problem observed, whereas the seconds seeks to see the bigger picture. Perhaps there’s also an involvement of Procedure and Options too – with an Options thinking style being more aware of the existence of alternative, and not necessarily favourable, outcomes.

Another metaprogramme that might be involved is the direction of motivation. The focus might have been so much on getting Away from the problem of single use bags, that little work was done on what the possible consequences could be. In contrast, a focus on moving Towards reducing the amount of plastic used in shopping bags overall and increasing recycling of those that were used might have avoided the situation we are now in.

I know from experience that it is not uncommon for policies to produce unintended consequences. Perhaps an understanding of thinking styles would be helpful to policy making groups and committees to avoid these. It would also enable such groups to consider the behaviours behind such problems too.

There are probably other metaprogrammes at play too – what do you think the thinking styles behind this unfortunate outcome were? Are there ones that I’ve missed, or ways in which the ones I’ve thought of might work differently? As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Seven Proven Ways to Drive Yourself Crazy with Meta Programs

Most people are already pretty good at crashing relationships and goofing up communication. Different people have different thinking styles. And people usually like their own thinking just fine, it’s the other people they have trouble with. Look around you, and you will see plenty of irritation, anger, frustration and conflict. How do they do it? How do they succeed in creating all this trouble? Or even more important: How do you do it? Let’s have a look at seven effective and time-tested ways to get frustrated through thinking styles. Seven proven ways to drive yourself crazy with Meta Programs.

What are Meta Programs?
Meta Programs are elements of your mindset, things like ‘towards’ (focus on goals) versus ‘away from’ (focus on problems). Your mindset is a combination of Meta Programs and values. Your mindset often determines what you do and how you feel.

MindSonar Meta Programs

1. People with a different thinking style suck
Let’s start with one of the most effective ways to get frustrated: believe that your own thinking style is the best one in the world. If not to say the only one. So for instance, let’s say you think in terms of the future and you like options. You could then simply call anyone who thinks in terms of the past and procedures an ‘old-fashioned coward’. This is a great technique, because it guarantees that you will meet old-fashioned cowards everywhere.

Guiding Principle: My Meta Programs are the only sane Meta Programs there are.

2. Mismatch proactively and in great detail
Let me explain the jargon here: ‘mismatching’ means that you focus on what’s bad or wrong. Its counterpart is ‘matching’: looking for what is right and good. If you mismatch proactively, that means that you do it without thinking about it much. You just simply do it all the time. And if you mismatch on all the details, you have a huge number of things you can find fault with. Everywhere you go, you will notice lots of things that are bad or wrong or incorrect or just simply ridiculous. Especially when you are an emotional person, this can be a perfect self-despairing technique.

Guiding Principle: Use the Meta Programs ‘mismatching’, ‘proactive’ and ‘specific’ in combination with each other.

MindSonar Meta Programs

3. If it doesn’t work, do it some more
Your thinking style is great for some things and not so great for other things. It may be great for designing buildings but not for playing with children. That’s why some people are flexible in how they think. So here is another great frustration booster: if your thinking style is not working, do it some more! For instance, if you feel strongly responsible for things and you are exhausted, do it some more of that: start taking even more responsibility.

Guiding Principle: Stick to your Meta Programs no matter what.

MindSonar Meta Programs

4. Find derogative words for other thinking styles
If you are a very practical thinker, you like to ask: what are we going to do with this? How can we use this? And if you work or live with someone who is more of theoretical thinker, they like to ask: what is the essence? Now watch out! You might be tempted to appreciate them for their different thinking style. Don’t! Instead, call them ‘cerebral’ or ‘vague’ or ‘pedantic’. Finding derogative words for their thinking style works great as a relationship destroyer!

Guiding Principle: People with other Meta Programs are dumb, ugly and [fill in negative qualification here].

MindSonar Meta Programs

5. Try to motivate people without understanding them
Sometimes you want to suggest to people what would be a good thing to do. And their thinking style usually differs from yours. And this provides you with yet another great opportunity for self-frustration! Lets say, for instance, that you think in terms of goals you want to achieve, and they think in terms of problems they want to avoid. So you vividly describe the things they can achieve with your plans. And they respond with a blank stare. An awesome self-frustration technique!

Guiding Principle: Everybody has the same Meta Programs I have.

MindSonar Meta Programs

6. Explain to people what is wrong with them
You have probably had someone, a friend, a co-worker, a family member, whoever, come up to you and start complaining to you about you. You were not doing things right, you wanted the wrong things, you didn’t treat them right, and so on. Remember: if they can do that to you, you can do it to them! For instance, if you are focused on the future and they are focused on the past, explain to them – in great detail and at great length – how much better it would be if they focused on the future more. Just like you do. And if they protest? That’s because they are so focused on the past. Explain that to them.

Guiding Principle: Clearly explain to others why they use the wrong Meta Programs.

MindSonar Meta Programs

7. Surround yourself with people who think just like you
This last technique can defeat not only individuals, but whole organizations; whole countries even. And yet it is quite simple to do. Just select people who have the same thinking style you have. And then simply refuse to talk to anyone else. Do you think in terms of goals? Only work with goal oriented people. Avoid anyone who thinks in terms of problems, they just make things difficult. Do you focus on feelings? Only work with other feeling types. Avoid anyone who focuses on pictures or stories, they just confuse things anyway. And so on. The beauty of it is: you can use all of the other techniques I described above to support this one!

Guiding Principle: Find people with the exact same Meta Programs and talk only with them.