Better judgments Part 2

Better judgments Part 2

Most of the forecasting we have to do has more serious implications than getting wet today. Water usage and the available precipitation ten years from now is a major headache for planners and governments in countries that are getting hotter and drier. Their forecasting is critical to the support of life. Usually our forecasts have less drastic potential outcomes. They are, nevertheless, important. They will decide our future happiness.

What are the judgments and forecasts you have to make in your life and work?

Most have to do with people, though often at some remove. Weighing up another person is one of the most complex things we are called upon to do because people are enigmas. They are neither one thing nor the other – neither good nor bad, clever nor stupid, saints nor sinners. We all have a mix of opposites in us. The more noble characteristics shine at certain times, the nastier ones emerge at other times. So even if I make an exceptionally good judgment of you it will only be like a snapshot – transient and fleeting.

The five stages we must go through are Perceive, Ask, Listen, Interpret, Forecast.

Perceiving demands more than observing. When I ask people to tell me what they see I usually get a relevant but superficial account of what appears on the surface. A few will try to delve deeper, perhaps interpreting the clothes or jewellery a person is wearing. Hardly any will risk a really creative interpretation. But perceiving requires that you invest what you see with imaginative thoughts, mentally test them and then accept or reject them.

Here’s an example. Who is that sitting at the next table in a restaurant? I don’t know. On the surface they seem like an elderly couple taking their lunch in reasonable harmony, not speaking much. He is looking at a slip of paper about which he appears to comment from time to time. She is glancing around, obviously seeing who else is in the restaurant, perhaps to discover if she knows anyone she might talk to.

Look again. Now I see two very experienced members of the CIA, clearly on some spy mission. He is briefing her that there may be a counter-spy, even here in the restaurant. That’s why she is looking around so anxiously. Absurd? Maybe, but now I am assessing the couple from a different point of view. And I have four or five different scenarios about who they might be. Each one will give me a chance to assess them from a new angle.

What we invest in our perception doesn’t change the truth. It simply gives us another way to perceive the scene. Most likely they are simply an elderly couple at lunch. But now I can start to imagine their background, attribute some personality to them, judge whether they would be reliable if I had dealings with them. Everything I ascribe to them requires me to re-assess them. In the process, my judgment gets better.

Perceptions, and our creative inputs into them, are at the heart of judgment and forecasting. How we project from what we observe today determines what happens tomorrow.

In Part 3 we will examine the other steps to making a judgment. For now, let’s inject some exciting scenes onto our everyday, familiar perceptions.

Doing so will enhance our lives dramatically.