As I pondered what I should write about today, a quote from Amit Kalantri popped up on my screen, “To a farmer dirt is not a waste, it is wealth.” It would appear that our viewpoint changes based on who we are.
Yesterday I was reading an Ed Batista article about the ladder of inference (a concept put forth by Chris Argyris based on work by S.I. Hayakawa and Alford Korzybski) which examines how we look at a situation, process it and finally take actions. The bottom of the ladder is selecting specific data to focus on from the observable data (Selection). The second rung of the ladder is interpreting the data and giving the data meaning (Interpretation). The third ladder rung is developing theories and beliefs that explain our interpretation of the data (Conceptualization). Finally, we take action based on our beliefs and theories (Action).
Each of these steps has opportunities for error.
During selection we rely on our individual make up (upbringing, biases, heuristics, etc.) to select the data we believe matters the most. We can ignore data that might be important to better decisions and actions. Are we focusing on the right data?
During interpretation we apply our own personal lenses (culture, social standing, beliefs, personal experience, etc.) and apply highly subjective meaning to the data we have chosen. This creates a tendency for us to assume that the meaning we have applied is inherent in the data while it may be something we have constructed. As Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride” says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what your think it means.” Perhaps we should pause to ask ourselves does this mean what I think it means or do my lenses create distortion?
During conceptualization we try to be efficient in our decision making which can shorten the process of making decisions. We may sacrifice quality for speed. We leave out large amounts of data whenever we make a decision. Our own theories and beliefs may fail to account for everything that is going on.
As we take action, we switch to autopilot and move forward bypassing as much resistance as possible. Batista states, “when our attitude and our behavior are inconsistent, we experience discomfort and even distress, and we modify either our attitude or our behavior to reduce inconsistency.” We will even change our theories and beliefs to bring ourselves in line with our chosen action. Are we on autopilot or are we taking thoughtful action?
Back to our “dirt is wealth” quote of the day…If we had put our farmer lenses on, we may have seen that.
Each of us processes millions of bits of data every hour and when we take the time to slow down our decision making process, especially for bigger decisions, we may be able to see opportunities and wealth in the dirt.
This blog allows you to experience the raw, gut wrenching drama of human conflict through accounting in each of its three stages: preparing to do battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.