Manifestation miracle

7 Logical Mistakes Even Smart People Make

Even super smart people sometimes make (or fall for) these common errors in logic.

I've seen some mighty smart people--CEOs, CFOs, PhDs, MBAs--make mighty big leaps of logic. While I've exaggerated the examples a bit, several contain quotes from meetings I've actually attended.

1. The "Ridiculed Truth" Argument

Definition: Attributing value to an idea simply because people aren't taking it seriously. This mistake is often accompanied by the quote "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." This mistake tends to pop up during presentations to investors.
Example:
  • Jill: "Your idea sounds absurd."
  • Jane: "People laughed at Galileo, Einstein, and Steve Jobs."
  • Jill: "True ... Maybe I should give your idea a second look."
Corrected:
  • Jill: "Your idea sounds absurd."
  • Jane: "People laughed at Galileo, Einstein, and Steve Jobs."
  • Jill: "People also laughed at Hassenfeffer, Grubber, and Leostock."
  • Jane: "I've never heard of them."
  • Jill: "Exactly."

2. Irrelevant Best Practices

Definition: Using case studies to prove that a particular strategy will work even though the case studies describe situations that are either unique to a particular company or not applicable to your industry. This mistake is found in 95 percent of all business books.
Example:
  • Jane: "In 2010, Apple and Coke spent 10 percent of their revenue on branding. And we're spending less than 1 percent!"
  • Jill: "Yikes! Let's do some branding, pronto!"
Corrected:
  • Jane: "In 2010, Apple and Coke spent 10 percent of their revenue on branding. And we're spending less than 1 percent!"
  • Jill: "We sell industrial glue; nobody cares about our brand."

3. Treating Anecdotes as Evidence

Definition: Using personal experience or stories about other people to prove that a strategy is effective. However, no amount of anecdotes constitutes evidence that something is true. This mistake occurs most frequently in self-help books.
Example:
  • Joe: "This is an important meeting! Donald Trump always has his shoes shined before important meetings!"
  • Jim: "Gosh, I'm going to get my shoes shined right away!"
Corrected:
  • Joe: "This is an important meeting! Donald Trump always has his shoes shined before important meetings!"
  • Jim: "Uh ... I'm wearing Nikes."

4. Appealing to Folk Wisdom

Definition: Rather than providing evidence that supports an opinion, somebody trots out a commonly used phrase or analogy that passes as folk wisdom. The folk wisdom "feels true" but is entirely irrelevant. This mistake turns up all the time in keynote speeches.
Mistake:
  • Jim: "Workplace stress is good, because diamonds are only created under pressure."
  • Joe: "Hmmm. I never thought of that ... "
Corrected:
  • Jim: "Workplace stress is good, because diamonds are only created under pressure."
  • Joe: "People aren't diamonds."
  • Jim: "Well, would you rather soar with the eagles or swim with the ducks?"
  • Joe: "Please leave now."

5. Clutching at First Solutions

Definition: Using the urgency of a situation as an excuse for doing the first thing that comes to mind. The thought process goes like this: 1) Something must be done immediately. 2) This is something. 3) Therefore we must do it. This mistake usually occurs during status update meetings.
Example:
  • Joe: "Sales are down!"
  • Jim: "Maybe we should hire more salespeople!"
  • Joe: "Great idea! Let's get started."
Corrected:
  • Joe: "Sales are down!"
  • Jim: "Why are sales down? What are we doing wrong?"
  • Joe: "I'm not sure."
  • Jim: "Let's find the real problem before we jump into a solution."

6. Statistically "Proven" Prejudice

Definition: Making assumptions about a person's character or effectiveness on the basis of aggregate (and often misleading) statistics collected for a group to which that person belongs. This mistake shows up most frequently during hiring and promotion discussions.
Example:
  • Jim: "Studies show that most men and women would prefer to work for a man rather than a woman."
  • Joe: "Hmmm ... Let's offer the position to Fred rather than Mary."
Corrected:
  • Jim: "Studies show that most men and women would prefer to work for a man rather than a woman."
  • Joe: "What's your point?"
  • Jim: "We should offer the position to Fred rather than Mary. Forget the fact that he's my brother-in-law."
  • Joe: "Mary is better qualified, so I'm offering the job to her. Also, you're fired."

7. Paralysis by Perfectionism

Definition: Rejecting a practical but imperfect solution to a problem in favor of a perfect but impossible one. This mistake is most likely to occur when a "professional" manager with no technical expertise is put in charge of a team of engineers.
Example:
  • Jim: "We've reduced the number of bugs in the software by at least 15 percent."
  • Joe: "That's unacceptable. From now on, our software will have no bugs! Do you understand? No bugs whatsoever!"
  • Jim: (tries not to roll his eyes) "Whatever you say, boss."
Corrected:
  • Jim: "We've reduced the number of bugs in the software by at least 15 percent."
  • Joe: "Can we get that number even lower?"
  • Jim: "Probably not; we're at the point where any attempt to fix more bugs will just create new bugs."
  • Joe: "Great! Release the software!"