Reality Straight Up!

Thoughts & Observations of a Free Range Astrophysicist

Never Bet the Farm on an Idea You Haven’t Tried to Kill First

Many a business postmortem begins with, “I wish I had seen that coming.” The obvious question is, “So why didn’t you?” The painful answer is usually, “Because I wasn’t looking.”

When things go south we usually have no one to blame but ourselves. As I discussed in Knowledge Can Be a Very Dangerous Illusion, decisions can be no better than the knowledge upon which they are based. In the business world confirmation bias and the illusion of knowledge are a one-two punch that is responsible for the vast majority of business failure.

Now for the good news. It doesn’t have to be that way.

A Simple Challenge That Will Change the Way You Do Business

Humans have an extraordinary ability to change not only what we think, but also how we think.  Confirmation bias and the illusion of knowledge are as deadly as they are easy and natural, but they do not form a prison in which we are trapped without hope. There is a way out.

I like to give business leaders a simple challenge. Take 15 minutes and jot down a few ideas that are central to the way you do business. Then as you go about your day look for indications that those ideas might have problems. Do that and I’ll bet you a good bottle of Scotch that a year from now there are things that you will be doing differently.

A Different Standard for Knowledge

What I am describing is nothing short of a redefinition of knowledge. Reliable knowledge doesn’t come from being content that you are right. Reliable knowledge comes from actively looking for indications that your ideas are wrong!

If an idea can withstand that kind of scrutiny then it shouldn’t let you down in a pinch. But if an idea can’t stand the heat then it was never your friend in the first place, no matter how comfortable it might have seemed. The more important an idea is, the more fervently you should look for its flaws. Better to find out now instead of waiting until you are lying in a ditch.

To sum it up in a few words, never bet the farm on an idea that you haven’t tried to kill first!

When push comes to shove this is the only game in town. It can be uncomfortable to take off your blinders and look reality squarely in the face. But a competitive world doesn’t care much about your comfort. Business is ultimately about the bottom line, and the bottom line is clear.

It’s not a question of whether it’s comfortable to change the way you approach knowledge. It’s a question of whether you can afford not to.

Never Bet the Farm on an Idea You Haven’t Tried to Kill First  © Dr. Jeff Hester
Content may not be copied to other sites. All Rights Reserved.

Reality Straight Up!

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Click on thumbnail to select post:

  • Schools in the Time of COVID  The Decision Will Ultimately Make ItselfPosted in Thoughts
  • COVID-19 Arrives  The Humanitarian Disaster is HerePosted in Thoughts
  • Correctly Predicting Failure  It’s time for scientists to get loudPosted in Thoughts
  • Typhoid Mary on Two Wheels  Spreading COVID one lap at a timePosted in Thoughts
  • Pine Boxes  Invest now, the numbers are going upPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • Scientists Stuck Inside  Curiosity in the Time of COVIDPosted in For Your ConsiderationThoughts
  • After COVID’s First Wave  No getting back to normalPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • COVID-19  Cutting through the confusionPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • Great Deceiverism 101  Explanation or Theory? Therein lies the rub.Posted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • One Step at a Time  The  not-so-mysterious origin of lifePosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • The Mind’s Siren Call  Being certain is a primrose pathPosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • Constrained Hallucinations  How the brain uses science to perceive the worldPosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. Yes, schools are desperately important to kids. No, COVID-19 doesn’t care, and COVID is making the rules right now. Attempts to open schools this fall will fail of their own accord. The relevant question is how to meet the needs of children, families and the community in the face of that reality.

  • Currently new cases of COVID-19 in Arizona are doubling every 7 days. ICU beds in the state are already full. The rest of the country isn’t that far behind us. You do the math.

  • Now is not the time for scientists to be circumspect and silent. We are on the short end of a battle over whether truth even matters. If scientists do not stand up for what is real, who will?

  • The morning cyclist in my neighborhood may not be standing in the Michigan Statehouse carrying a gun and demanding her right to spread contagion far and wide, but she may as well be.

  • You know those nice charts and graphs that make it look like we are over the hump of COVID-19 and that things are about to get better? Those predictions are dead wrong, with an unfortunate emphasis on “dead.”

  • Imagine three gregarious scientists, each with the gift of the gab, all coping with stay-at-home orders. Of course we started a livestream/podcast talk show! What else would we do? Welcome to the kickoff episode of Scientists Stuck Inside.

  • Even after COVID-19 kills hundreds of thousands in the U.S. over the coming weeks, we will still be almost as vulnerable to the pandemic as we are today. We’d all love to “get back to normal” after that, but the price could be a second wave, worse than the first. Some see us facing either economic Depression or allowing vast numbers of preventable deaths, but that is a fool’s choice. There are better options if we have the will to find them.

  • There is a lot of information about COVID-19 out there, much of it misleading. When looking at the future, start with what the science really says.

  • If someone can’t tell you how they would know that they are wrong, they don’t have a clue whether they are right.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Once seemingly incomprehensible, the origin of life no longer seems such a mystery. Most of what once appeared as roadblocks are turning out to be superhighways.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Being certain lights up our brains like a junkie’s next hit. Literally. Unfortunately, being certain and being right are two very, very different things.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • The unique worlds we each consciously inhabit – the only worlds we will ever experience – are constrained hallucinations, products of hypothesis testing by our predictive brains.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

Over his 30 year career as an internationally known astrophysicist, Dr. Jeff Hester was a key member of the team that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. With one foot always on the frontiers of knowledge, he has been mentor, coach, team leader, award-winning teacher, administrator and speaker, to name a few of the hats he has worn. His Hubble image, the Pillars of Creation, was chosen by Time Magazine as among the 100 most influential photographs in history.
©Dr. Jeff Hester LLC, 5301 S. Superstition Mountain Dr., Suite 104 #171, Gold Canyon, AZ 85118