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The Perils of Prejudice

The most effective problem solver is the person who gets all the pertinent facts that can be gathered and weighs them rationally and objectively. The worst problem solver is the individual who has unshakable and preconceived notions about what the solution should be.

When this second person weighs the facts, the scale is rigged. The result is that potentially practical and efficient alternatives are eliminated from true and objective consideration.
A financial executive recently was fired when a chaotic paperwork and data processing situation was traced to his lack of objectivity in reorganising the company's paperwork handling an inventory control system.
Five years before he had gone through an unfortunate experience with a computer installation. The equipment had been installed prematurely and without enough planning, so that the outcome, not surprisingly, was disastrous. As a result, he had developed an aversion to electronic data processing, one he blindly and fanatically adhered to.
Thus, in attempting to cope with the company's data processing problems he ruled out the computer and contracted instead for a cumbersome network of small data processing machines. The resulting hardware and support personnel ended up prohibitively expensive, too slow for the company's real time processing needs, inadequate to handle its increasing volume of business and in a poor competitive position in the marketplace. The company desperately needed a computer. The manager's refusal to consider one wound up costing him his job.
That's one kind of prejudice. An even worse kind is prejudice against certain types and classes of people. Since most problems involve people, the more bias a manager has, the greater the chance of complicating rather than solving the problems he or she tackles. Prejudice comes in an ugly variety of sizes and shapes.
Here are a few examples to ponder — any of which could destroy your pure objectivity and erode the effectiveness of the solutions and decisions you make:
•  Racial prejudice.
•  Religious prejudice.
•  Age prejudice, against either the old or the young.
•  Sex prejudice: the notion that either men or women are better or smarter than the opposite sex.
•  Prejudices due to hasty conclusions or wrong judgments.
•  Prejudice stemming from "facts" you failed to check.
•  Prejudice due to giving credence to word-of-mouth statements or gossip you neglected to substantiate.
Not all prejudice is clear and obvious. We sometimes try to conceal irrational bias from ourselves. Test each of the above prejudices as openly and honestly as you can. Are you guilty of any?
The creative process requires more than reason. Most original thinking isn't even verbal. It requires a "groping experimentation with ideas, governed by intuitive hunches and inspired by the unconscious.'' The majority of businessmen are incapable of original thinking because they are unable to escape the tyranny of reason. Their imaginations are blocked.


David M Ogilvy