Peter Drucker was once asked why businesspeople fall for fads and fail to rely on empirical evidence, to which he replied:
Thinking is very hard work. And management fashions are a wonderful substitute for thinking.
I have found in my limited experience on this planet that, by and large, people do not engage in an endless search for the truth; they are too busy trying to maximize utility, or just achieve enough to get by (satisfice in economic jargon).
It’s why so many consultants can spew pabulum and get away with it. It’s why so many people challenge what we say based on what they believe to be truths that we long ago have falsified—such as the need to price by the hour AND keep timesheets.
But our arguments and evidence are not conducive to bumper stickers and a seven-step checklist, so people that aren’t taking the time to learn, reflect, read and experiment will reject them as preposterous, as most new ideas indeed usually are. Yet I remain amazed that they reject the empirical evidence all around them that have validated our theories.
This is one reason I wanted to to create a think tank, a place where people would not be concerned with anything other than the pursuit of the truth. VeraSage’s name says it all: Veracity + Sagacity, or true wisdom. Even though every one of our fellows leads incredibly busy lives, trying to run firms and maximize utility, they take the time to think and reflect upon broader issues.
Some say this is a luxury, or not relevant to the “real world”—an especially ignorant charge—but I believe in order to achieve a robust dynamism in the business world, one needs not only doers but also thinkers. As in the American Revolution, it was said that George Washington fought for it while Thomas Jefferson thought for it.
In that spirit, I was thrilled to see a post by fellow Chris Marston: “Our Profession Has Stopped Thinking: How Else Could We Have Departed from Sound Economic Principles?”
Chris admits this was a rant he wrote while traveling to New York via train to meet up with me and Dan Morris so we could attend the preview to The Call of the Entrepreneur movie (more on that later).
Even so, it’s an excellent rant, one that should make us all pause as we approach the end of the year to deeply reflect on our accomplishments, objectives, and overarching purpose.
Thanks for the rant Chris! Sadly, I think you are right. Optimistically, I hope we at VeraSage have contributed to a resurgence of professionals thinking for themselves.
As always, I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with Chris based on your experience within your chosen profession.