Ideology is an important factor in determining how people make decisions. In order to make good decisions, you have to have an open mind to all of the potential solutions for the issue under consideration.
So, what is ideology? Based on a composite of about ten different definitions that I could find, ideology can best be described in one sentence as a set of opinions, beliefs, theories, or principles (usually political or religious in nature) held by an individual, group, or society that explains and lends legitimacy to their actions in their own minds.
However, ideology is much more complicated than this. And ideology has nothing to do with intelligence. It is more like a set of glasses through which we view the world. And being nonideological is somewhat different than being pragmatic, which means dealing with issues practically or realistically, although some amount of pragmatism certainly goes into making good decisions.
There is still much debate about some important aspects of ideology, especially extreme ideology. What causes ideological thinking? Do people with extreme ideological views even realize that they are this way? Can you be truly ideologically neutral? There appear to be no clear answers to these questions. Everyone no doubt has some degree of ideological thinking when it comes to how they view the world. When you look at society as a whole you likely have some sort of distribution curve with people in the middle being the most ideologically neutral.
There is a problem when people who are inclined to strong or extreme ideological thinking get involved in the decision-making process. In order to come up with the best solution to the problem at hand you have to use facts, data, and nonideological logic to solve the root cause of an individual problem. You have to be open-minded to all of the potential solutions. A Duke University study linked political extremism to “belief superiority” in which people believe that their viewpoints are better than those of others.
You learn as an engineer that if something is designed wrong it will not work, no matter how good it looks or how much people seem to like it. If a bridge is designed wrong it will collapse. You can’t talk something into working if it doesn’t align with the laws of science. In other words, you can’t fool Mother Nature.
So, can people who have extreme ideologies be convinced to change their way of thinking? Apparently, but it is not easy to do, at least in the short run. And interestingly enough, research indicates that there is a thing called a “backfire effect” in which the act of trying to convince someone with established beliefs to change their mind will actually cause the belief in their own theory to get stronger.
It is critical to keep an open mind in doing any problem solving and just as important to consider alternate viewpoints. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, people who cannot objectively look at things should not make critical decisions related to that issue. Decisions must be based on facts, data, and nonideological logic to solve the root cause of the issue at hand.
Next: Making Government More Efficient, Continued