The Delusion Conclusion

So I’m sat looking at my reader numbers for this year so far and making a comparison with those of 2013 at the same calendar date – and I’m drawing some conclusions based on certain  criteria.
It has a kind of parallel with certain sales or business results and trends. This is the type of conclusion drawing that’s
introduced by phrases such as “This time last year,” or “Target results for this year were expected to be,” etc. In business and productivity there’s a perennial degree of expectation based upon certain modelled and planned
And confidence in business goes hand in hand with how the planned expectations are framed.
And confidence in ourselves goes hand in hand with how the planned expectations are framed.
Left Field Leapings
In early August last year we suffered a flash flood where I live. In less than one hour the heavens opened in such a torrential manner that the drains – after four weeks of dry weather – had become “sealed up”, shall I say. They failed to cope; they were “not fit for purpose” as they say. Consequently waters ran down the various hilly streets and roads of our town and congregated at the first major gathering point – outside where I live. Due to the camber of the roads at this junction, half the water was sent further downhill and half gathered and rose up outside our house, where the Water Authority had recently installed a major storm drainage hub, at the cost of several £Millions, to deal with such
Expensive drainage systems are only as good as the interface between themselves and the hazard they are dealing with. Now, at this time on this day, the “all drains blocked” factor leapt out of the left-field and caused a flood at several properties round and about – including where I live.
And confidence in systems goes hand in hand with how their functionality is framed.
And confidence in ourselves goes hand in hand with how our capabilities are framed.
Now conclusions, framings and decisions are all part of the nuts and bolts of everyday life. And there’s a fascinating book by Wray Herbert, called “On Second Thought”, which explores a whole range of our habitual conclusions, framings and decisions – which are collectively called heuristics.
Heuristics look to replace lengthy ponderings and clunky, cognitive considerations with speedier, intuitive, “gut feeling” responses. Because heuristics keep our mind ticking along at the “pace of modern life”, and keep our mental bandwidth free for other things, we feel comfortable and confident in the durability of our own processes. On the face of it, it appears as being somewhat lazy in the mental department, however we are often at pains to justify that laziness.
Now we might never know what those other things might be, so allowing heuristics to play such an autonomous role in the direction of our lives could be somewhat delusional and lead to unsuitable or even catastrophic outcomes.
The final entry in the diary of Robert F Scott, discovered when his entire exploration party was found frozen to death on the icy wastes of Antarctica reads thus,
“We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence … ”
There were many factors and planned decisions that went into placing Scott and his party on the great Antarctic landmass – however, some of them followed what we would now recognise as heuristics rather than slow, ponderous consideration. Plus, of course, exploration of any kind, needs to take “left-field leapings” into account.
And part of my everyday life, since last August, is to keep a watchful eye on “freaky” or left-field wet weather conditions. Interestingly, there have to date been three further instances of flash flooding right next to my house. And here’s the thing about left-field leapings, none of these were predicted in terms of ‘weather watching’, yet on each occasion I was at home and present in order to alleviate the rising waters. Had this not been the case, the house would again have been flooded on the ground floor.
It could be said that it was “Providence” that made sure I was at home at those times.
Risk Assessments
There is much store these days given to the taking of Risk Assessments. They are a useful exercise in potentially framing any situation and revealing our delusional conclusions in advance.
Curiously, there is a way many of us also go about framing the purpose of Risk Assessments themselves, which is to assume they are a pre-requisite to deflecting subsequent blame and responsibility.
The referee at one of our recent rugby matches was extremely concerned about the state of the pitch, a feeling he expressed to both sets of players. He saw a risk to the welfare of the players from some of the boggy parts of the ground. The game proceeded thanks to his bowing to the wishes of the players – whose own collective decision was probably heuristically driven! He insisted, however, that if any player ended up face down in a boggy area, that he would abandon the game.
Having re-established the status of his controlling and responsible position, the referee then proceeded to ignore player welfare in terms of human-v-human collisions, whether caused by accidental injury, foul play, dangerous play or malicious play – all of which are primary considerations for a fair game of a violent contact sport, like rugby. His framing of the situation in Risk terms was delusional, as it took no account of what was actually happening right in front of him, in the moment.
Confidence in anything is a very slippery fish, for we base it all upon what we believe is reliable, what we believe what is or are factual “givens”. And on that basis, in that believing, there is delusion.
The thing about believing the factual “given” is that it is underpinned by whatever framing we may put upon the situation. When our framing is ill-considered, we then follow certain heuristics and conclusions based on the frame.
And, as we know, outside of that frame are a whole raft of Left Field Leapings waiting to take place!
The left field is, essentially, everything that is outside the frame. And although Risk Assessment is a good way of filtering for possible conclusional delusions, the BEST way to be is to always expect the unexpected.
Hope for the Best
Prepare for the Worst

but above all
Expect the Unexpected