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Conditioning

Posted by beyondexecution on January 17, 2011 at 8:10 AM

Last month I was proven wrong. On the highway to work, I normally take a detour path, because the main highway route is normally very heavy. The detour is a little longer, but saves me probably 10 minutes. I take this detour all the time, because it's always true.

 

Now, riding on the GO Bus, which I have started doing more and more, the driver also takes this detour as well, pretty much every day. Today it didn't, and I was thinking "No! What are you doing?!" As we drove by the exit point for the detour, I noticed a huge logjam of cars, and so the driver took the "baseline" route. The baseline route wasn't smooth sailing, but it wasn't complete stoppage as well. I'd estimate it even took a little less time as taking the detour on a regular day.

 

And so this made me think about how I had become conditioned in my thinking. I was so used to seeing something occur that it became the norm, until I saw proof otherwise. Think about it - we are doing this all the time in how we make decisions, which options to take and even how we view the people (the famous "Halo effect").

 

This also happened to NASA leading up to the (first) space shuttle disaster, Columbia. The risk around the 'O' ring at fault never changed - only NASA's perception of it. Because it never failed in previous tests and launches, NASA became conditioned that it was a low risk area. And we know what happened.

 

So, what's the advice here? Think objectively, be open to new data, new ideas and revisit previously failed approaches. You never know, just as I found out this morning.

Categories: Project Management Tips, Soft Skills

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