October 2012 – When Is A Shortcut The Long Way Around?

When Is A Shortcut The Long Way Around?

I recently listened to a talk on diversity which offered insight on how stereotypes, pre-conceived beliefs and our impressions drive our behavior. It got me thinking about how we react to the world around us.


A lot of our behavior is likely based on conditioned reflexes influenced by old survival instincts. Running from predators involves more reaction than thought process, and in times of stress or panic, it’s not unusual for us to show more of a fight or flight response, than an intellectual one. Our capacity for intuitive decision making has evolved over the years, but we still take shortcuts to simplify complex decisions. We reference our past experiences in an effort to speed up the process of getting to a satisfactory outcome. In our effort for efficiency, we risk jumping to conclusions or filling in the blanks before considering all the facts.


Look at how your kids react when introduced to unfamiliar foods. Many times they offer a disgusted “yuck” and refuse to eat it, even though they’ve never tried it.  Maybe this is a hold over defense mechanism from the lessons our ancestors learned while foraging in the woods for nourishment? The wrong food selection could prove fatal. Fortunately for us today, Stop & Shop isn’t known for its dangerous food selection, so you don’t have to be a slave to only what you know.


Prejudice is certainly a great example of our leaping to conclusion. We create stereotypes and start to profile. This may have started as a mechanism to protect us by allowing us to sort out potentially dangerous people from perceived safe people, but these things carry over with unintended consequences. Then we find ourselves passing judgment on people for how they look, who they vote for, or where they’re from.


Sometimes people leap to a conclusion, by starting with the conclusion. How about that customer, who has you do an incredible amount of work bidding a project, and then instead of reading what you have given them in your bid package just jump to the last line of the last page, directly to that final number? Often they may be trying to grab for the easiest handle and also may be trying to hear what they’d like to believe. They’re looking for the “easy button”, they want to “cut to the chase”, and “get to the bottom line”. All well and good, but you have to remind them that you get what you inspect, not necessarily what you expect.


Part of our maturing as people and developing as a race, is our ability to move past operating on gut reaction only. We grow when we think, process, digest and then formulate an opinion and a plan. We separate ourselves from the rest of the animal world by our ability to look beyond the surface, to dive into the details above the bottom line and to not judge every book by its cover. Sometimes we all need a little reminder that we have this ability and that it’s important for us to use it. After all, we’re human!


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