The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters
Yorkshire Powerhouse Score: 7/10
This is not strictly a business book but, instead, a book about psychology and human behaviour, written by a very serious and credible scientist … but written in an entertaining and engaging way that is accessible by anyone with three brains!
To be fair, we’ve all got the three brains and this is the point of the book – in fact, in the womb, the complete brain forms from a larger number of separate cell growths with the main three resulting parts being described by the author as:
- The Chimp – the part of you that’s uncontrolled and run by instinct, emotion and feelings
- The Human – the part of you that’s reflective, thoughtful, logical and rational
- The Computer – the area where you store your beliefs, values, methodologies … this is the unconscious operating system that runs most of your actions / reactions
Who will gain the most from reading this book?
From a business perspective, The Chimp Paradox is perfect for anyone who wonders why they act like they do and would like to have a better understanding of the options they have for self-development. It’s essential reading for anyone who flys off the handle at the slightest provocation … even though they know they shouldn’t (normally realised after the event!). Finally, from a non-business-leader perspective, this is a great book for anyone with some self doubts, some challenges in life, someone struggling with motivation, drive, anger, or emotion.
Core Content of The Chimp Paradox
The book is presented in three core areas:
- Firstly, an explanation of the three main areas of your inner mind – as mentioned above, the Chimp, the Human and the Computer. This section is mainly about being able to ‘know yourself’ and to be able to recognise and understand how the three inner minds inter-relate, fight, contradict and present themselves in daily life.
- Secondly, The Chimp Paradox goes on to explain how you function, how you work with others and how you communicate whilst constantly referring back to the underlying Chimp / Human / Computer to provide a depth of understanding to these tasks.
- Finally, in the third part of the book, Prof Peters looks at the quality of your life and discusses looking after your physical and mental health with the appreciation of the three areas in your mind and how they affect you.
There is also a further, and slightly cheesy metaphor used throughout the book of a ‘solar system’ … where your sun is the centre of your existence representing complete self-fulfilment with accompanying planets, asteroid belts and various moons all relating to different aspects of your ‘self’. This is the part of the authors approach that causes the book to be a challenging business read – it’s too cheesy and unnecessary but adds a little colour to the text all the same. Any business reader can see past this and not be too distracted by it.
The author is quick to point out that your inner Chimp is faster and stronger than your Human self … which ultimately presents some societal issues as Chimp behaviour in polite society is generally not acceptable. He provides three mechanisms to manage your Chimp mind – being bananas (rewards and distractions), exercise (letting off steam) and boxing it in (using the Human logic to present the Chimp with more ‘considered’ thoughts). All this is presented in a logical and accessible way and the numerous examples allow the reader to easily understand the issues being presented.
Remember, also, that your Chimp is not good or bad and you can’t get rid of it … it’s simply a Chimp and acts according to jungle law!
Without going into too much detail in this review, there is clear and undeniable logic (and cold hard scientific FACT) in the content Prof Peters presents – however, The Chimp Paradox is probably ticky to read as a ‘self help’ book as there’s simply too much to take on board to deal with any actual situation … the application of what you learn is likely to be of most benefit when receiving coaching or support from someone else (a mentor / coach / therapist) who is well versed with the text and approach.
It’s not at the top of my ‘must read list’ but it’s definitely made it onto the list. The overall message is one of self knowledge and clarity that can then be used to purposefully change your behaviours and reactions in a positive way. There are some great insights into dealing with stress and communication issues that would help anyone at any stage of their business life. Stewart Leahy, Yorkshire Powerhouse
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