The danger with preconceptions (and why I read fiction)

by Edward Henkler on March 12, 2013

Shedding Preconceptions, Part I: I am an avid reader, with eclectic tastes including business, fiction, non-fiction, and magazines such as Smithsonian Magazine.  Some recent reading and favorites are included in the sidebar in the “I Recommend” widget.  I’ve had business colleagues ask why I’d “waste” my time with fiction.  In one respect, fiction is just an escape from the more challenging aspects of life…I’m sure you’ve heard, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.  There is a secondary, more important reason I enjoy reading fiction.  I believe it contributes to developing innovative and creative skills.  Fiction isn’t bound by traditional rules and frees our mind to consider nontraditional alternatives. While some of the alternatives may be completely illogical, others can represent intuitive leaps.

Let’s look at what we can learn from fiction using some of my recent reading, specifically “Trigger Point” by Matthew Glass (see link in the sidebar widget).

 Trigger Point, Matthew Glass

It’s a great read but sticking with today’s point, it contains a wonderful lesson in the danger of preconceptions.  What if our initial premise was wrong; how dramatically would that change how we reacted?  In “Trigger Point”, an investment banker believes a corporation is weak and he shorts a considerable percentage of their stock.  That action precipitates a significant decline in the stock price.  Coupled with some coincidental world events, the stock market plunges.  In the aftermath, detailed analysis shows that the company which led the stock market plunge was majority Chinese-owned.  The US government incorrectly believes that the Chinese government was manipulating the price to cause damage to US financial markets and finds a way to retaliate against the Chinese markets.  The retaliatory actions escalate to the brink of nuclear war before the original US investment banker recognizes how his original actions were the initial trigger, not any intentional action by the Chinese.

Going back to the beginning, if the US government would have recognized that a US-based banker initiated the chain of events, much would have changed.  There still would have been a concern about a company which was majority-owned by a foreign national but imagine how the discussion might have proceeded.  The US government would have contacted the Chinese government and initiated discussions about the inherent problems, real and perceived, with foreign ownership.  They would probably have established some rules and processes to trigger early, collaborative intervention.  Knowing that they hadn’t “attacked” our financial systems, we would work together to resolve rather than racing to retaliate.

This is an important lesson, which I will relate to Union/Management negotiations and perceptions of individuals who are differently-abled, in my next two posts.

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