by Jeremy Nulik
On the list of business startup ideas I have never pitched is Bickerflix. Think of Netflix, except without the hassle of having to actually binge-watch Vikings or sit through a rom-com 30-minutes too long. Nope. Instead, for just $1.99 per month, Bickerflix subscribers can browse through well-thought-out categories of films, shows, documentaries, and original series. The titles and images will create the basis for an inevitable argument with your spouse, partner, or fellow enthusiast. Rather than having to choose your video content, you can just allow for the argument to be had. You will need your popcorn for the conversation that started with “When Harry Met Sally” and ends with 20 minutes on why you cannot parallel park.
It may seem that this business idea works off an assumption that each decision or selection requires an argument. While that may seem cynical, it is not nearly the level of assumption that Netflix (and almost every digital interaction you have) has about you right now.
Netflix offers you the chance to “Continue Watching,” “Because you Watched Bridgerton” options upon first logging onto the platform. Additionally, even the images and artwork are based on your previous behavior. In the name of providing you a better experience, the artificial intelligence (AI) is serving up your options, while reinforcing what you already like, think, believe, and understand.
The same underlying theory is designed into your favorite social media platforms and even way-finding apps. The decisions trees get narrower and narrower until very few images, stories, or opportunities can be laid bare to you.
Over time, this tacitly approved limiting to our possibility space has long term implications for how we make decisions in general. AI is but the latest way that we have worked to reduce uncertainty. In reality, the limiting of decisions reinforces perhaps our greatest sets of cognitive biases. In short, we make worse decisions. We make ones that are less informed and cannot contend with uncertainty.
“Every time we program our environments, we end up programming ourselves and our interactions,” said Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future. “Humans have to become more standardized, removing serendipity and ambiguity from our interactions. And this ambiguity and complexity is what is the essence of being human.”
The good news is that there is a way out of this, and all it requires is being human. You were made for uncertainty. You were made for ambiguity. You were made for this.
If we hope to make better decisions and face wicked problems (How can I grow my business? What is next in my career? How do I make my workplace more engaging?), then we must find a space in which nuanced and competing ideas can be understood. We must be willing to engage; to argue; to listen; and to appreciate images, ideas, and notions that perhaps we immediately did not consider.
Dare I say, we must find a way to usefully bicker.
Thankfully, here are tools that can help you to start. Informed by strategic foresight, they can begin to illuminate the possibilities, rather than pre-assign decisions.
On April 29, a group of futurists and strategists from Bigwidesky are offering you the opportunity for a problem-hacking virtual session as part of the Enterprise University series. You can learn about it and sign up at bigwidesky.com/enterpriseuniversity. Sign up and bring your toughest problems to a foresight-driven experience that will help you get access to tools and insights that will help you reveal possibility and overcome your challenges.
Jeremy Nulik (firstname.lastname@example.org) is evangelist prime at bigwidesky, a human business consultancy, in St. Louis, Mo.