Flying high in the sky, looking out the window reveals patterns:
What do you see? The answer to that can come from a number of levels of detailed observation, abstraction and deductive reasoning:
- The ground
- Circles, squares, and rectangles
- Human life
Imagine turning on the news and seeing images like that being sent back from a probe circling Mars? Because perfectly symmetrical circles and squares don’t naturally occur in Nature, seeing them on Mars would conclusively answer the question of the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Our belief about the unnaturalness of seeing well-defined shapes in natural environments overrides our belief that Mars is uninhabited, and so the data becomes proof of what was previously deemed not so because “someone put those circles there.”
(This same dynamic underlies how people who see patterns in Nature can see them as prima facie evidence of a Designer … or not.)
Leaders and organizations are not immune to this same phenomenon. If you believe it is your people that make the difference, your data (whether positive or negative) will tend to support that. If you believe it is strategy that matters, the answers will tend to come from there.
The danger for leaders isn’t in being unable to see that data without looking through the lenses of your own deep-seated beliefs. The danger is in believing you already have accomplished that feat.