Remember Mr. Spock on Star Trek? You probably remember the pointy ears, but the main thing Spock was known for was his logic. As the story went, Vulcans were completely devoid of emotion, so everything they said and did was solely based on logic. Sometimes Spock could be cold and clinical, but he was on the side of good and you always knew his actions were 100 percent driven by logic.
What made Spock such an interesting character is that we know people like that don’t really exist. It’s not so much that we’re emotional – although that’s part of it – but we are far more psychological beings than we are logical ones.
That doesn’t mean we’re lacking in intelligence. It just means that human patterns of thought are driven by more than cold, hard data. They’re also driven by attitudes and impulses that are shaped by our experiences, or perhaps simply by the unique chemical wiring that makes up the 3-lb. brain in everyone’s head.
This is hardly a new observation, but I wonder if the prevalence of our devices today has caused us to lose sight of it.
Just about everyone these days carries around a device that fits in their pockets, which is the source of almost unlimited logic. That is, if you can find a reliable source! But that’s the nature of technology. It spits out information that is driven by objective fact. The financial statement either balances or it doesn’t. It either rained or it didn’t. The Lions either lost or . . . well, they probably lost.
Having access to such logical devices may be giving us an unrealistic expectation of logic in people. It may also cause us to think that any factor in a person’s reasoning apart from logic deserves to be rejected.
That is not only untrue, it completely misunderstands human nature. Mr. Spock would surely dismiss it as completely illogical.
Because we are psychological beings – influenced by our experiences and our chemical makeups – we often find it’s impossible to get two people to see things the same way. Some examples are simple: You’re terrified of spiders, I don’t mind them at all. You think department meetings are helpful, I think they’re a waste of time.
These aren’t objective matters of fact, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value to the various perspectives. This is how it works with humans because we have more going on than cold, hard logic. On some matters we have opinions, and those opinions influence the way we understand and apply the objective facts.
The question is how we account for this in business. We don’t want to quash people’s individuality that’s based on their psychological makeup. But we do need certain behaviors based in fact.
Think about it like this: If you were about to get on a flight, what would you think if you were told the pilot had two checklists to choose from? One is the standard Boeing checklist, and the other is Captain Bob’s preferred checklist.
With all due respect to Captain Bob’s opinions and preferences, you’d probably feel better knowing that he didn’t blow off the Boeing checklist.
People in business need to be able to accept that certain things require standard procedures, built on data-based fact. There is plenty of room in business for opinions, attitudes and even feelings. The trick is for management to know when to make room for those things, and when there is no wiggle room to vary from procedure.
We always need to do well with understanding human psychology if we’re going to solve problems. Diplomats are trained at this. It’s how they get to resolutions of all kinds of situations between people who are predisposed not to agree. If you have someone in your company with those kinds of skills, they’re worth their weight in gold. Put them to good use.
But recognize that, no matter what you do, logic is only part of the human makeup. And don’t lament that. The other parts are good, and they’re part of who we are.
Written by: Wade Wyant
Red Wagon Advisors