"JUST BECAUSE..." - 23 APRIL 2012
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Drumming - Milnesand, NM, File # 1216457
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So much in what we do is based on what we think we understand. Decisions are made of a situation and based on best judgement we choice courses or actions. We do this everyday without thinking. The discussion today is about what happens if you have to make a decision about something but really don't understand important features. It's a situation where part of the problem is clear as a bell but the rest is a black box with no features. The challenge becomes when making a decision how that black box is considered. Do you account for it at least in some measure or totally disregard it?
In these situations I think there are really two approaches. One approach is applying some weight to what you don't understand and therefore make choices that respect what you don't understand. The other approach is to take the opposite tack. It's the tack that says "what I don't understand must not be important".
Most people should be taken aback by such a statement. It's pretty aggressive first of all because it reveals that this person thinks all the stuff worth knowing is as least understandable at a minimum or discoverable in the near future. I think it leads to a supposedly predictable and rational view of the world.
Here's my take. Such a point of view is constrained and relatively unimaginative. There isn't much mystery in the world for such a person. They may not see much past their personal view-point meaning transformation or openness to really new discoveries will be few and far between. Evolutionary change is the norm. Revolutionary change is unknown.
Why am I talking about this? I'm talking about it because I just returned from my annual trip to help the Lesser Prairie-Chicken festival where I lead a workshop. In an earlier blog I talked about how the bird population is so much less this year than in years past. There are obvious reasons for the lower populations. Most of the recent problems are related to weather problems. As a conversationalist, if you've taken action to account for historical weather extremes yet the bird populations are still in decline you have to ask yourself why?
This is a example where believing what you don't know isn't important is absolutely the wrong tact to try to find a solution. Presumably, if you've considered all the supposedly important information and take appropriate action yet the problem still exists, there's something wrong. Something that's not understood or revealed still persists meaning the solutions are insufficient.
The prairie-chicken example is simply that, an example. I've applied the same thought process to many other situations and have developed a healthy respect for what I don't understand. For that matter, I've also developed a healthy amount of faith of people who do understand something are much better positioned to give a knowledgable opinion even when the facts are relatively scant.
You've heard me talk about the book Blink by Malcom Gladwell. The theme of the book is there are situations where experts can make accurate and detailed assessments of situations based on impossibly small amounts of information. The facts are not so present as to support these assertion. As time passes sometimes the facts reveal themselves and sometimes they do not. Yet, the assessment never changes and is shown to be true.
This all comes back to the premise some people have that what they don't understand is not important. As smart as the people may be who take this view (I know many brilliant folks that act just this way) I think it's insufficient for tackling the gigantic nuances and frustrating problems of the day. Real creativity is required to tackle these problems and not allowing there's a whole world your personal point of view doesn't allow for that creativity.
I personally think the better approach is to say this to yourself; "Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it's not important". There is always more out there to understand and waiting to be discovered. There is always something out there that's beyond our present understanding that might be a solution or at least needs to be considered in the decision process. Be open to the possibility there is always more and it's probably really important.