The Elephant in the Airport

Tom Evslin on why we should focus on single issues at our peril. He concludes with 4 lessons :

  • Pilots are taught never to focus on a single threat or a single instrument to the exclusion of everything else in and around the plane. (Letting the threat of climate change overwhelm consciousness of all other threats was poor public policy.)
  • Models are of limited use in projecting the course of chaotic phenomena like disease or climate or the economy. (Models are a tool for understanding through simplification; but not all complex interactions can be simplified usefully.)
  • β€œListen to the science” is a guide but not a panacea. Climatologists will tell you that climate change is the elephant in the room. Epidemiologists will tell you we should focus solely on disease.
  • When everyone is looking in one direction, look the other way.

That third one reminded me of an apocraphyl story we used to tell back in the Group Partner days …

If a compnay had a Β£10 million budget and asked Oracle, IBM, WPP and Accenture to solve the problem, the answerr would be respectively

  • a better way of managing the data in the compnay
  • new hardware
  • a multi audience advertising campaign
  • a consulting program to get to the bottom of the problem
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