Do we take time to stop and listen to that inner voice?

In Westworld, ‘the bicameral mind’ alluded to the progression Dolores made towards achieving self determination and an ability to make her own choices
Barry Shannon

WESTWORLD has returned to our screens, picking up where the last series so violently ended (such is the outcome, according to Romeo and Juliet, of violent delights).

The more astute among you may have noticed that the last episode of series one was entitled ‘The bicameral mind', alluding to the progression Dolores made towards achieving self determination and an ability to make her own choices (essentially the point at which she realised the voice she was hearing, instructing her and telling her what to do, was actually her own).

Julian Jayne espoused this theory in his book 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind?', suggesting true consciousness was a learned skill that humans only acquired a few thousand years ago. He posited that the brain was originally, cognitively, separated into two: ‘speaking' and ‘doing'; such that instructions to be obeyed were thought to be from some higher power.

This theory certainly has its critics (and indeed its proponents), however the concept of being spoken to by the gods, of the little voice inside, of the angel and demon sitting on your shoulders, has been a recurring motif across history.

Even in the famous Michelangelo painting La Creazione di Adamo (the Creation of Adam) you can see that God is framed by a host of angels whose outline remarkably seems to take the shape of a human brain. Is this an image of a divine Creator bestowing consciousness upon man, or a more secular (and controversial) suggestion that man's brain really is the ultimate power?

Has this anything to do with HR you might wonder? Well, yes. Every day we are required to make decisions, from the trivial to the tremendous. When doing so, however, do we take time to stop and listen to that inner HR voice? The one that helps us think of all the angles, that extrapolates and models and scrutinises the potential ramifications of the decisions? Perhaps we should.

For any major decision it's always good to think beyond the immediate. Who are the stakeholders? Who might be indirectly affected? Will the decision reach the wider world outside the business in terms of publicity or effect?

Use that internal HR voice to play devil's advocate. Do you really challenge yourself, if you are honest? Examine the risks of what you are planning to do. Do they outweigh the benefits? Do you really try to figure out the negatives (or if it's an idea you initially don't like; do you really think through the positives)?

Consider the building blocks of decision making: cost, time, effort, communication, value (real and imagined), timing, outputs, inputs and resources required.

Will this be a local effect and will it have an impact on the rest of the business? Is there relevant legislation to be mindful of? How do I balance doing the correct thing versus the right thing? Do I need to put measures in place to change the decision if it doesn't work out? Work back from the worst-case scenario, reverse engineer your decision and use that as a benchmark.

Simply put: train yourself to stop and have a little think before you act and don't be afraid to tell yourself you are wrong, if necessary.

:: Barry Shannon ( is HR director at Cayan in Belfast

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