One of the most important thing to understand in business is making conclusions and generalizations, and to understand that while there are rules, there are also exceptions to the rule. As one of my favorite saying goes, “ All generalizations are wrong, including this one.”. Let us say for instance, that you hire a lot of people coming from a particular college, and have found that the standards are no good. To simplify decision making you may decide that you won’t hire anymore from that school. Or you have issues with some products that you bought from China, and therefore conclude that all their products must be inferior in quality.
These kind of stereotyping can simplify our lives, but it can lead to wrong choices. So there are now employment rules for example in the United States, that you are not supposed to hire on the basis of skin color, religion, origin, marital status, and the like.
Let me illustrate how stereotyping can be wrong – because when you stereotyped, you start to color your perceptions, and it might well become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Once there was a woodcutter who lost his ax. He looked around, and concluded that it was probably been stolen by the neighbor’s son. So he secretly observed all the movements, and utterances of the small boy, and every action and word of the boy seemed to confirmed he indeed must be a thief. He resolved that after a day or two, he would confront the boy, and get at the truth.
Early morning, he went to the usual spot where he usually chopped wood, and near the tree, found his lost ax. He had been too busy wrapping the firewood the other day, and bringing it home, that he must have forgotten the ax.
So now, he went home, and was now apologetic why he ever thought it was the boy. He again secretly observed the boy. The boy was so sincere, and lovable! The more he saw and heard the boy, the more he was sure that the boy could never had been the thief. Oh, how could he be so wrong!
Next time, you look around, try to ask yourself – did you form the conclusions first, and then find the justification later, or did you really make the decision with an objective and open mind?