Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, December 20, 2007

As You Can Clearly See

"Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself."
-Doris Lessing

Some years ago my Spouse attended a conference relating to work. Spouse's boss was also present and a small group watched as one colleague, armed with two graphs, a speech and no shortage of determination, prepared to deliver a lecture on the benefits of one plan over another.
He pointed to Plan B and said sincerely, "as you can clearly see, this is the far superior option for us to take. You can clearly see this."
My Spouse's boss looked and looked at the graphs very carefully.
My Spouse looked and looked at the graphs, also very carefully.
Everybody else was nodding enthusiastically. Oh yes, their nods were saying, most definitely the second choice was the right one.
My Spouse's boss could not take it any longer. He raised his hand.
"What do you mean by saying 'as we can clearly see?' I don't see any difference at all!"
My Spouse supported this revelation.
His plan foiled, the man smiled sheepishly. "Yes, it is true," he admitted. "They are, actually, exactly the same."
The plans differed but the graphs were identical. He simply wanted to push his favoured plan forward. One can scarcely blame the man: after all, in order to do his job he had to cleverly win over a group of people- and he very nearly succeeded, at that.
It says, however, far more about a conditioned society than it does about him. It tells that we are too quick to agree, too quick to nod for convenience and too trusting to see glaring discrepancies in front of our own noses. I would rather believe that the remainder of the group just did not have enough interest in the matter to pay attention but it is far more likely that they honestly agreed the second plan was clearly better, having just been told so.
With eyes and mind open, we can never be fooled.

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