As a renowned behaviourist, Jez Rose wants us to turn off the auto response to channel the best from ourselves – the result, he says, could be extraordinary
Self-parking cars, clothes with tech built in, multi-screening, all benefits of the digital age – or not? What if the tech that is designed to empower us is actually inhibiting our thought processes and leading us to achieve less?
It’s a thought which behaviour expert Jez Rose considers in his new book, Flip The Switch, in which he challenges us to step back from instant messaging and take control of our conscious decision-making.
“My job as a behaviourist is to understand why we do the things we do. The problem with automated tech is that we stop thinking and I have a real concern about it for future generations.”
“My cousin is able to watch television, have a movie running on his laptop, while swiping a tablet and playing a video game. Kids think they’re doing it all, but actually they’re not doing anything. If we’re not challenging the space between stimulation and response, we’re not actually thinking at all.”
“I think of that scene in Disney’s Wall-E where the entire human species is laying down watching screens and pushing buttons, and we’re not that far apart. It sounds sensationalist but it’s true and it needs to be thought about.”
If it sounds like a generational rub, ask most 30-somethings if they sit on the sofa watching endless Netflix box sets while swiping tablets and checking their social media channels, most evenings.
“It’s about conscious behaviour and decision-making,” says Rose, “and the consequences of the choices we make. Our grandparents used a great epithet, ‘Count to ten before reacting,’ and that’s something we still need to do before we add a comment, send an email or text with a knee-jerk reaction. It’s simple advice that can benefit us all.”
While most of us live in a truly 24/7 world, Rose says that taking a conscious decision to stop and step away from external media can be a life-saver and a great way to ground ourselves before we take action. “A great tip is to stop everything entirely so you’ve got something to compare to.
“Take 60 seconds to sit in silence and don’t think. It’s actually harder than it sounds for most of us as we are so over stimulated most of the time, but it can be enough to check yourself before you act.”
In his book, Rose – who appears regularly on radio and TV and was invited to speak at a TEDx conference on behaviour – offers advice and techniques to help readers identify behaviours that hold them back, how too improve their own and others’ mindset.
Having started his career as a stand-up comedian Rose has worked as a behaviourist for more than ten years, including projects for Philips, Volkswagen and Marriott. So, after a decade of people watching, do we all act in the same way? “Everybody asks if I’m profiling them,” laughs Rose, “and although I always mentally run a safety profile when I meet people, it’s just a job.
“There’s a body of work to pull on, but what is true is that the vast majority of people lack self-confidence – you see it when they reach for their phone or check their watch – but behaviour is not guaranteed, and we can all choose how we respond. I encourage everyone to challenge the status quo and think about why we do what we do.”
“We all habituate very easily – we cook the same meals in rotation, we do things at the same time in the same order – but we can challenge and then shift our behaviour. Maybe there is another way? Challengers in history such as Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela thought, there’s another way, and although it was difficult the impact their actions made was life-changing.”