A convenient a priori

As the Sport Accord Convention in St. Petersburg (which I missed) wrapped up last week, I got to read some first-hand impressions from participants: touching on emotional and professional expectations, some comments were tactful, some raw. The fact that it was taking place in Russia has triggered some interesting reactions to both scheduled and unexpected events. What was “intuitively obvious”, sometimes, became the headline of the day for a few attendants. Fascinating to see how some presumed thoughts can obstruct a piece of actuality that, after consideration, can rank from “not that bad” to “fantastic”. That tree hiding the forest can be heavy to dislocate: its roots often grow solid along with frequent hypothesis.

Conditioning my mind to assumptions, you and I all know, is rather counter-productive. Past experiences are just that: from the past. Learning lessons from them can help, for sure. Yet, such lessons do not qualify to become rules: that would be one way to crash and fail. I am still guilty of it too (and working on parting ways from it), and it is easier to hide behind and decide based on the past. Unless you are an olfactory marketer, working on the very senses that touch emotions and memory cells, an a priori may look attractive and tempting, they are just a small story in our mind to comfort, and support, our conclusions.

Engaging into a project and introducing a new, or different, way of doing business often brings a strong manifestation of resistance (that fear of change is so present and sticky). This reaction goes back to a confined and speculative knowledge of a probably similar past scenario. Then of course, if that presumption turns out to happen, it is called intuition (in “all” honesty). On multiple occasions, I heard “Yes, I knew it would work, I just wanted to make sure you knew of the background” from people who had questioned the very purpose of a project I was leading. In line with this expression of sincerity, when the assumption proves inaccurate, one claims “it was just an a priori”: easy.

Being aware of my inexperience is fine: recognising it is another exercise, and my peers’ feedback has been reporting some progress (!). I sometimes am skeptical about different ideas: I am still eager to learn, maybe to crush and dismiss that list of a priori I used to have and nurture. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Maybe cynicism can yield to discernment over the years: building on evidence and experience can certainly help. I do not know: this is just an intuition…

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