When things don't work out as planned, sometimes it is because our plans were based on faulty assumptions or thinking.
Consider these observations:
- Crime increases at the same time as an increase in ice cream sales. We also observe that crime rates drop at the same time as a drop in ice cream sales.
If we believed that the two variables are correlated we would plan to stop selling ice cream in hopes of reducing crime. We would hold meetings, develop plans and launch a marketing campaign on Facebook. Unfortunately, our face would be wearing egg soufflé rather than a book.
Ice cream sales and crime are affected by the unmeasured variable of temperature in this example. There is a causal relationship between temperature, crime and ice cream sales.
The relationship between ice cream sales and crime rates is not causal. It only appears to be related if we misread the data. In this example, we have common sense to help us interpret the fact that something else is going on with crime and ice cream sales.
This type of relationship is called "spurious." Spurious variables are not easy to see. In many cases, this explains why things don't work out as planned.
Leaders command an action in the face of data. Along the way, an assumption is made that A+B = C. When we get a wheelbarrow full of A, then add it to a container full of B and get nothing (or other consequential results) we can conclude that a spurious variable is at work.
Effective leaders like to test things and make small steps to determine "whether these things be true." Spurious variables are not easy to see without testing.
Testing becomes even more important when "everyone else" is reporting that a shiny new object is affecting the outcome of this or that.
Crowds like ice cream so I don't follow crowds.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint and dill and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone. You blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matt. 23:23-24).
NOTE: In tomorrow's column, learn more about the effects of suppressor relationships on leadership.
Dr. Steve Greene is the publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, is now available.
Leaders, Dr. Greene wants to help you understand the spiritual connection between relationships and productivity. Read his new blog, here.
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