I once read about a psychological study designed to see how people would react to flawed reasoning.
Even when it flew in the face of their own very sensible judgment.
It was quite revealing.
Two people, A and B, were seated on opposite sides of a dividing wall, looking at a screen.
They were instructed to learn by trial and error to recognize the difference between slides of healthy and sick cells.
For each slide, they had to push one of two buttons in front of them, "Healthy" or "Sick."
When they did, one of two lamps labeled "Right" and "Wrong" would light up.
Person A received true feedback.
His "Right" lamp would light up when he was correct.
And his "Wrong" lamp would light up when he was incorrect.
These people--the As--learned to tell the difference between healthy and sick cells with a high level of accuracy.
Person B's situation was quite different.
His right or wrong lamps lit up based not on his own guesses, but on Person A's guesses.
He didn't know it, but he was searching for an order where none could possibly exist.
A and B were then asked to work together to establish the rules for determining healthy vs. sick cells.
The As told the Bs what they had learned.
What simple characteristics they had looked for to tell the difference.
Bs' explanations, by necessity, were subtle and quite complex.
And completely bogus.
Here's the amazing part.
After their collaboration, all Bs and nearly all As came to believe that the delusional B had a much better understanding of healthy vs. sick cells.
In fact, As were impressed with Bs' sophisticated brilliance.
And they felt inferior because of the pedestrian simplicity of their assumptions.
In a follow-up test, the Bs showed almost no improvement.
But the As' scores dropped because the As had incorporated some of Bs' completely baseless ideas.
This study teaches two important aspects with regards to business concepts.
First, once a belief has taken hold of our minds, information that should refute that belief may not produce an appropriate change of mind.
Instead, our minds will find and add details to rationalize our flawed belief.
It also teaches us to beware (be aware) of abstruse ideas.
No matter how convincing the presentation or how brilliant the so-called expert.
The signal-to-noise ratio in the world of business is becoming dangerously low.
Because the level of background noise is becoming more and more obtrusive.
If you're an A in this environment, you should be very, very careful in the new year.
And try like hell to stay away from the growing number of Bs.