The HeadScratcher Post Archive
January  2011
A Lesson from the Tooth Fairy
       January 2011 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 68

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A Lesson from the Tooth Fairy

Warning:  Keep this edition away from young children

If you have kids, do you remember their belief in the Tooth Fairy or Santa?  On several occasions, I have been amazed to observe that even though there was abundant evidence to the contrary, their belief in the Tooth Fairy was unaltered.  For example: One evening as I was delivering a few quarters in exchange for a tooth, my daughter woke up.  "DAD! What are you doing?".  As my heart started to pound and I thought that this was finally "it", I calmly said, "I was just checking to see if the Tooth Fairy had come yet".  Pause ....  "OK, Dad, Goodnight, I love you".   Her belief was so strong she only considered how events were consistent with that belief.   So instead of me blowing it, I actually validated it.

One day however, kids learn enough about the way the world works, and they start to question things.  How can a tooth fairy go through walls, or how do they get around so fast, or where do they get the money from, and how come Joe down the street got $3 and I only got 50 cents?   Their doubt allows them to see contrary evidence that challenges their beliefs and eventually they can accept a new conclusion and ... Shazam!   ...  no more tooth fairy visits.

Fast forward 20, 30, 40 + years and apply this to your world of business plans, new products, revenue projections and your daily business life.  We often have strong beliefs about what we want to happen.  We dream.  We are tenacious.  We have faith in our vision and plans, and look optimistically at achieving them..  All great and encouraged attitudes.  

But, like the belief in the tooth fairly, we sometimes get so entrenched in our belief that we only see the evidence that supports them.   We can be oblivious to contrary evidence.  It's where naivety comes from.    It's not that we are closed to evaluating contrary information; it's that we can misinterpret what we "see" in the context of validating our belief.

If you were an outsider, with no vested interest in the success or failure of an initiative, and only charged with objectively looking at a business plan or product plan, you would see and interpret information differently than from the "inside".

The Takeaway:  The next time you have a new plan, remember the Tooth Fairy.   This time, team up with someone who isn't looking for that quarter under the pillow, but is able to view evidence from a different perspective.  This will provide you with interpretations that you might never have considered.

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