We’re all used to our perishable food coming with an expiry date. They take various forms such as: Sell by mm/dd/yyyy or Best if used by mm/dd/yyyy. And sometimes, they don’t say much of anything. There’s just a date and maybe some undecipherable lot code. It’s up to us to guess if the date is the expiration date. Most people I know very much appreciate having those dates so that we don’t purchase food that may “go bad” before we have a chance to consume it.
Out of Date
I need visible expiration dates on my knowledge. I sometimes forget that I haven’t updated my beliefs about the way things are. I know I hold some world views that are outdated. This fact was forcefully brought home to me as I read the excellent book Factfulness, by Hans Rosling. The hint is in the subtitle: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Indeed, when I took his quiz about the condition of the world, I failed miserably. As does just about everyone who takes the quiz, regardless of education and/or income level. It may even be true that more educated folks will score worse than the “average” person. Or, as Mr. Rosling puts it, “worse than the chimpanzees.”
As we hear constantly; our world is changing at an exponential rate. In the past, it may have worked fine for us to study our world, come to some reasonable conclusion and then move on. That world view likely didn’t change very much over the decades. That is no longer true though.
I’m trying to develop the habit of always saying to myself, “When was the last time you updated your data?” Asking this question and looking at new databases, caused me to change my views on a few domestic topics: income distribution, immigration, taxation, healthcare, etc.
As business leaders, it falls to us to make sure our organizations are constantly checking their views of markets (global and domestic), customers, business processes, business models, logistics, etc. If we do not do so, the tendency is to stick with our old, established world views. We’ve known for a long time to check our assumptions. However, if we believe we are using sound world views — which were likely quite correct a decade or more ago — we will not check them because to us they aren’t “assumptions“!
Some data expires faster than other data. Human nature may change very slowly. But our reaction time to the external changes in our environment must improve quickly if we are to thrive.