THE FALLACY OF CENTRALITY

 

Being new in a role – I ask a lot of questions. I am aIso wary of my own opinion in decision making. Decisions are made based on one’s perception of the situation, and mine is very new. Therefore, when an important decision needs to be made, I ensure that I have all the facts, seek other people’s opinion, so that the best decision can be made.

The other day I was thinking of the danger of organizations that make central leaders the collecting or decision point too often. I then happened on an article which included a note on the ‘fallacy of centrality’:

Researcher Ron Westrum, observing the diagnostic practices of pediatricians in the 1940s and 1950s, spotted what he has come to call the fallacy of centrality. The fallacy is this: under the assumption that you are in a central position, you presume that if something serious were happening, you would know about it. And since you don’t know about it, it isn’t happening. It is precisely this distortion that kept pediatricians from diagnosing child abuse until the early 1960s. Their reasoning? If parents were abusing their children, I’d know about it; since I don’t know about it, it isn’t happening.

One could argue that this is why the British lost on Crete. Sales people, leaders, managers all need to beware this false sense of confidence with regard to knowledge or the belief that they know so much that ‘it can’t be happening’. I remember a piece of advice that I was given by a CIO years ago, he said ‘Do not every become like (the competition). They think they know everything that is going on, they don’t. After all, they don’t know what we are about to do (he laughed)’.

A good reminder that things are always changing, that lots of questions need to be asked and that a central position can have blind spots. After all, look what happened to the political system that was founded on centralized management … Communism.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bob Marshall, Sarah Shaw Tatoun. Sarah Shaw Tatoun said: Via @flowchainsensei Fallacy of Centrality: "If it were happening, I'd know about it." http://bit.ly/dZvmS9 Very pertinent for economists. [...]

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