I Know It When I See It. Really?

For the most part, all of us are wired to believe and understand things based upon our own viewpoint or experience.

That’s why it’s hard at times to relate to someone else’s reality. That’s also why it’s easier to depend upon the viewpoint that ‘I know it when I see it.’ The problem with that is we’re good at accepting what’s right in front of us, but not so much with things that are too far in the future.

Nothing in our environments is solely the result of personal experience. That’s why we rely on scientists, technologists, journalists and even futurists to give help us with some insight into how events on the larger world scale will influence our particular situations.

The risk of ‘I know it when I see it’, where you pick and choose which outcomes or events to believe or otherwise (especially without doing your homework), is that you’re putting yourself and those that depend upon you for leadership at risk, as well.

I used to sit around a lot and talk with others about anecdotal evidence regarding religion, politics, health care, patriotism, even the weather. It used to be fun but morphed into something that became too frustrating and stressful. Why? Because I started noticing that it was mostly irrelevant to what might or might not happen in the long run. I don’t waste time doing that anymore.

There’s a reason that the majority of us hate statistics. The experts would posit that it might be because 85% of the US population can only read on average at an 8th grade level.

Might it also be because 85% of the population has no direct experience with the larger picture? Might that be why it’s easier to respond with facts based only upon personal experience?

We’re all guilty of it, including myself. It’s a natural reaction because we all want to be relevant, don’t we?

In my view, the real challenge (especially to be relevant as a leader) is to do our own homework, couple that with our own personal experiences, and then determine the best path forward that benefits the most people.

Truth be told, the peril of ‘I know it when I see it’ is that the next time you see it, it may have morphed into something you won’t recognize with the potential to do much more harm than good.

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