Thinking about Business
“When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”
—John Maynard Keynes1
Variations of this quote have been attributed to different people over the years—Keynes, Winston Churchill, Paul Samuelson—but regardless of who said it, it does illustrate two worthwhile points. The first is literal: No cows should be sacred, and it’s good to challenge your own position. Be open to the idea that what you’re seeing may be slow change and not stasis. The second is contextual: Despite advances in access to information (such as provided by Google), we can’t always be sure we have the facts right. We can’t even be 100 percent sure of who said what, as is the case with this oft-cited quote.
We would like to think that Keynes was intuitively familiar with the underlying concept of shifting baseline syndrome, because in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936), he wrote, “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.”2 We would also like to think that we can convince a good portion of readers to come to the conclusion that things have changed and business is probably not using design as effectively as it could.
We have suggested that design is a natural aptitude, an effective way for humans to approach the world, and that this has probably helped us survive as a species. And, throughout much of our ...