Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What We Don't Know, That We Think We Know

In 100 years will society look back on us as simpletons the way we like to think of our ancestors 100 years ago?

In business, just like in a foot race or climbing a mountain, we are constantly making decisions based on limited information. That is part of the excitement. There is a thrill to stepping into the unknown when you think it is going to go well, but you don't really know. However, using mountaineering as a perfect example, sometimes a serac falls down and kills 16 people climbing up to Everest camp one. They thought they were simply going to hike up to camp one April 18th, 2014.

In business companies go bankrupt when enough wrong decisions are made. Kodak invented digital photography. Empires rise and fall. Rome fell. Runners win medals and set records, and then get busted for doping scandals. All the while people are suffering and dying in South Sudan yet no one really knows or cares.

A former supervisor of mine once said, "everyone thinks he or she is the smartest person in the room." I think about that fairly often. There is nothing new under the sun. We are no smarter now than our ancestors 100 or 1000 years ago. We simply have a huge knowledge base that is accessible now, so we're solving different problems.

In 100 years or 1000 years from now, if the world is still around, our descendants will certainly wonder why we did some things and didn't do other things that in hindsight seem obvious.

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