Accountability... (By John Richmond)

Posted in: Core Values, Delphi tribe by Emma Knape on 9 April 2015
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Having had a tumultuous and emotional few weeks at Delphi, on the back of a busy time that precluded me writing a follow up to my last blog on creativity, it is probably a good time to think, and write about accountability.


I think of all our values, accountability is probably the most rational one. It speaks to a seriousness of character that places responsibility for our actions squarely at our own feet. It also speaks to a history of thought that stretches back to antiquity as it was the early Greek culture of a few hundred years BC that first began to develop a system of thought that tried to remove the subjectivity of emotion from decision making. It led ultimately to a system of laws developed by the Romans and ultimately to the current British system of judiciary and law that is prevalent throughout many countries in the world. It is a system that looks to the facts of a case and has an independent, emotionally disinterested person or group of persons make a decision based on those clear unambiguous facts alone.


It is important to realise that the importance of this rational system of accountability is there precisely because we humans have a strong predisposition towards irrationality. There is much evidence and science around the process of decision making that indicates that our capacity for clear, rational thinking is quite limited as it is confined to a relatively energy hungry, small area of the prefrontal cortex. As such, it doesn't take much to interfere with its functioning. Being tired, hungry or having big emotional loads all severely undermine this area's ability to work. We start making decisions that feel just like the decisions we make at the best of times but actually are not very good ideas at all- fear of heights is a good example if you've ever been near anyone with that particular affliction it is quite clear that their behaviour is making the situation more risky whereas it is also clear that in their own minds their extreme fear of falling is entirely rational- not only that, they will often admit to that when removed to a less vertically challenging area and yet are still unable to translate that rationality to the moment of crisis.

This is why we have process for accountability, and why that process is so important. It keeps us on the straight and narrow of gathering the evidence and giving ourselves the time to consider, discuss and reach a clear and reasonable course of action. It sometimes seems that this process is laborious and unnecessary when the course of action appears clear but actually it is protecting us from bad decision making based on a tired, hungry and overloaded prefrontal cortex (poor thing).


So what else can we do to improve our functioning and make our little prefrontal cortex purr- why, the answer is easy! It's the five ways to wellbeing! And especially for me, as it is the one that often falls by the wayside when time seems tight, it is meditation. Meditating once is good but a streak of three days in a row makes a massive difference to my ability to think straight and stay calm in the face of adversity.

So here I am again recommending Get Some Headspace (you can see why they call it that now) -it works for me.