Darwinian logic

Making good decisions requires that you recognise and eschew simplistic, comforting explanations. Even the best decision-makers constantly guard against this very natural tendency. That's one obvious lesson to learn.

ManagementSpeak: Our mission, vision and values guide our daily business activities.

Translation: Our mission, vision and values guide our daily business activities unless they interfere with my stock options.

-- IS Survivalist Jeff Cadieux's mission, vision and values led him to this submission.

Why is tension between IT and business executives so common?

No less an authority than Dr Richard Paley, teacher of divinity and theobiology at Fellowship University, reveals the answer (see more here).

"The real operating system hiding under the newest version of the Macintosh ... (MacOS X) is called ... Darwin! That's right, new Macs are based on Darwinism! While they currently don't advertise this fact to consumers, it is well-known among the computer elite, who are mostly Atheists and Pagans. Furthermore, the Darwin OS is released under an 'Open Source' licence, which is just another name for Communism ... The truth has finally come out: Apple Computers promote Godless Darwinism and Communism."

Our secret, I'm afraid, is out: we all believe in either no gods at all or lots of them. Is it any wonder we're closely watched by the God-fearing, non-Darwinian capitalists who run the show?

Believe it or not, Dr Paley has something even more useful to teach than the source of tension between business and IT.

As a leader, two of your most important responsibilities are making good decisions and persuading those you lead to embrace them.

The evident success of Dr Paley and his ilk demonstrates an important principle: given a choice between a complex, difficult-to-understand, disconcerting explanation and a simplistic, comforting one, many prefer simplistic comfort if it's remotely plausible, especially if it involves blaming someone else for their problems.

Making good decisions requires that you recognise and eschew simplistic, comforting explanations. Even the best decision-makers constantly guard against this very natural tendency. That's one obvious lesson to learn. The other?

Persuasion is difficult, especially when you have to present a hard, painful choice. The easiest way is to pander to your audience with a simplistic, comforting explanation that blames someone else ("clueless managers who just don't get it" would be a common example among IT professionals). Don't write this off too quickly: It has the advantage of working nearly every time.

It is, however, manipulative and dishonest. That doesn't mean the right approach is to present your logic in cool, painstaking detail.

To persuade, keep your arguments simple if not simplistic and phrase them in terms relevant to your audience if you can't make them comforting.

There is, after all, a difference between pandering to your audience and caring about it.

Find this persuasive? Send any comments to Lewis, who heads IS Survivor Training, which organises "Leading High-Performance IT". Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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