Workhuman Book Club: "The Cure for Stupidity" by Eric M. Bailey

October 8, 2019 Jess Huckins

4-minute read

The Workhuman® Book Club was created to inspire you with thought leadership from our speakers all year long, help you connect with other people who love to read, and provide exclusive opportunities to interact with authors. To participate in book discussions, follow Workhuman on Facebook and Twitter.

"The Cure for Stupidity"

Connection and communication are vital to our experience as humans. Getting these right isn’t easy, but it is based in science – brain science.

In our October Workhuman Book Club selection, “The Cure for Stupidity: Using Brain Science to Explain Irrational Behavior at Work,” author and two-time Workhuman® Live speaker Eric M. Bailey writes frankly about common communication barriers at work. Using the Principles of Human Understanding, a methodology he developed, Eric offers 22 tools “that you can use to understand the behaviors, decisions, and motivations of the people around you so that you can have more meaningful and effective interactions.” He also promotes self-awareness, because to understand others, we have to first understand ourselves.

The 22 Principles of Human Understanding include:

  • The Illusion of Certainty: Because humans like to be able to answer people when they ask us questions, we often project certainty and become confident we are right even when we’re not. This Principle tries to convince us we know everything when, in truth, there is much in this world yet to learn.
  • Empathy Changes Your Judgment: “When we empathize,” Eric writes, “it does something to the way we think, feel, or perceive a situation.” When we assume the best and look at a troubling situation from the other person’s point of view before we criticize them, it helps us better forgive and understand each other. At work, this can improve teamwork and engagement.
  • The Myth of Multitasking: Multitasking is most successful when the two tasks use different parts of the brain, such as listening to an audiobook while walking on the treadmill. Otherwise, when we say we’re multitasking, we’re often just making ourselves look and feel busier than we are. Quit this habit, Eric says, and “you can get more done in less time, be more efficient and more effective, and be the hero at work.”
  • The Pull of Patterns: The human brain is designed to recognize patterns, whether in people’s behavior or in our expectations of the world. It’s easy to combine this tendency with confirmation bias. As Eric puts it, “we easily get locked into ideas we believe are right, then work to confirm that those ideas are correct.”  

The situations Eric uses as examples are familiar to those of us who have built careers in office environments: break room squabbles over who should clean the coffee pot, team and departmental silos, and being beaten out for a new role or promotion, among many others. Eric explains how the person or group on each side of a particular scenario sees it, helping readers humanize everyone involved. His examples also go beyond the workplace, showing us that these issues aren’t much different from disagreements, annoyances, or arguments in other areas of our lives.

Throughout, Eric weaves stories from his life and experiences, all told with humor. He comes across as engaging and knowledgeable, and it’s clear he designed this book to help people think about the way they communicate and to illuminate strategies to try in everyday situations at work and at home. The heart of this book is learning a communication style based around common sense, understanding, and empathy – for others, and for ourselves.

Mark your calendars: Eric M. Bailey will join us for a Workhuman Book Club Twitter chat on Monday, Oct. 21, at 1:30 p.m. ET, during which you can ask him questions about communication by tweeting @Eric_M_Bailey with #WorkhumanBookClub and #TheCureForStupidity.

(Eric M. Bailey will present a session entitled “A New Conversation About Bias” at Workhuman® Live in San Antonio, May 11-14, 2020.)

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About the Author

Jess Huckins

Jess Huckins is a content producer at Workhuman. She launched the Workhuman Book Club and writes white papers, checklists, video scripts, and other content, focusing primarily on the data fueled by gratitude and recognition. Jess lives in Salem, Mass., where she enjoys adventuring outdoors with her two border collies.

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