Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leave the Drama Behind

Written by: on April 27, 2022

Global health expert, Hans Rosling, spent much of his career redefining how global health was perceived and engaged with. In his final book, Factfulness, Rosling challenges the reader to look at current global realities from a different perspective. While the world can feel as if little to no progress is being made in multiple areas, Rosling argues that in fact, the world has been continuing to improve across so many facets over the last several decades and will continue to do so. He provides the ’10 Dramatic Instincts’ which can be considered tendencies we all may have to look at statistics, current happenings, and realities from a lens that may not be an accurate representation of reality. These ten instincts are:

  • The Gap Instinct
  • The Negativity Instinct
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Fear Instinct
  • The Size Instinct
  • The Generalization Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • The Single Perspective Instinct
  • The Blame Instinct
  • The Urgency Instinct

As Rosling explores each of these in depth, he provides a combination of statistical data and anecdotes for the points he is making as well as what I’d consider simple steps or strategies to take at the conclusion of each section to combat that specific instinct. For example, similarly to Agarwal’s discussion of unconscious biases, Rosling describes that “everyone automatically categorizes and generalizes all the time. Unconsciously.”[1] This easily causes individuals to jump to conclusions and make false assumptions and Rosling encourages that to tend away from this instinct, it is important to look for similarities and differences within and across different groups. Perhaps most strongly aligned with our program, he discusses that “cultures, nations, religions, and people are not rocks. They are in constant transformation” within the destiny instinct.[2] Rosling encourages that we not confuse slow change with no change when looking at a given culture or nation.[3] Additionally, taking the pulse on cultural changes, ensuring the information we are gathering is current, and following the gradual improvements taking place will help to not fall into the trap of having a worldview that sees certain cultures or nations are unchanging.[4]

There were several ties to this book that I feel connected to previous texts that I wanted to make mention of:

  • Friedman: The need to be differentiated to lead well includes how we think about and make decisions around any given topic. The self-differentiated leader needs to be able to identify these instincts in themselves and others.
  • Chivers: The importance of good, reliable, and accurate statistics and data is crucial to make sound decisions, but it is also our responsibility to question the numbers and the stories connected to them.
  • Agarwal: The strong leader needs to be able to identify unconscious biases when looking at certain issues, especially within global health, as well as the data that surrounds it.
  • Kahneman: The importance of being able to identify which system of thinking is being utilized with these instincts as well as which system is most helpful to combat it. More than likely, System 2 is encouraged on all fronts when we attempt to see the world accurately.
  • Van der Kolk: The role of our brain in retrieving, processing, and organizing information and having the critical thinking skills needed to make sound and rational statements and decisions.

The main criticism I had of this book was addressed in later chapters, but not fully. Throughout the first several instincts, the media – their bias, false information, propensity to push the negative – was the main culprit of why we get things so wrong. Later, Rosling addresses that the media and journalists are not to blame in that they are getting it wrong just as much as everyone else. But it does leave me with questioning how to know what sources offer reliable and accurate data? If we cannot trust the mainstream media, where do we turn to find accurate statistics about global health issues? For some, Roslings ties with Bill Gates would automatically disqualify the information that is being presented while others would receive it on strong authority. How do we truly know if the data presented by any organization, government, or institute is unbiased and accurate? As a Christian leader, how do I not contribute to the drama and best approach seeing the world differently – not only from a perspective that addresses these 10 instincts, but also from an eternal perspective that knows the end of the story already?

[1] Rosling, 146.

[2] Ibid., 170.

[3] Ibid., 179-180.

[4] Ibid., 168.

About the Author

Kayli Hillebrand

Associate Dean of International and Experiential Education

4 responses to “Leave the Drama Behind”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Kayli: I also had the question in my mind about just how much the mainstream media pushes these 10 instincts that create biases. They are an easy target, to be sure, and I think Rosling didn’t want to make the media out to be all horrible. If he did that, he himself would be guilty of the Gap AND the Negativity instinct! It is just too easy to “blame the media.” Although they are guilty of these instincts that create biases, the picture is a lot more complicated than that. Great post by the way, especially with the connections with our other readings during the semester. Have a great summer.

  2. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hi Kayli. Thank you for your post. I especially appreciated your tie-ins with other authors we have read this year…great snapshot insights! Thank you! Your closing questions are thought-provoking. We (my husband and I) face this issue in our work about trust-worthy sources as it relates to the Middle East. The best we’ve been able to arrive at is the importance of reading a wide variety of sources and to do our homework on the bias any particular source has–there are no unbiased sources. This practice has helped us have a wider view and to hold any one view with a grain of salt. To your closing comment, Rosling ends emphasizing the need for humility. For me, knowing that God is both Alpha and Omega cultivates humility in me, so no matter what I’m reading about the Middle East, and no matter how complex the issues, I can rest in God’s wisdom and so live with the humble knowledge that I will never fully understand all that is going on…and yet I can act in keeping with the values and ways of God’s kingdom. What practices would you offer to live into your questions?

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Hi Elmarie: Due to the nature of my work, I’m on a distribution list through the Overseas Security Advisory Council, where I receive three emails per day of the latest news from around the globe – tied to local reporting bodies. This tends to give me a larger view of the global happenings at any given time.

      In terms of how to keep everything within an eternal perspective, I try to practice asking myself “what are the eternal implications?” in any given circumstance. That, and remembering that every person I see or engage with was created helps me to all the more rely on the Spirit’s prompting for how I am to act or speak in any given situation.

  3. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Kayli, thanks for all the connections you made to the other books throughout this year. I also appreciate your concern about objectivity in the information we receive. That is a real challenge as no one is completely objective and I believe we are all unaware of our biases (thanks Agarwal!) Personally, I wish Rosling would have addressed how he believes even statistics give us the true story as there are ways to manipulate questions and data to produce a desired result. By the way, I stand by an earlier comment that you should consider writing something that gets published! Hope you are getting some restful nights these days…

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