This is a regular blog about learning. Today’s topic is learning when we least expect it. That is when we are seeing or confronting what appears to be irrational behavior. For example in the news this week there’s been a lot of talk about Northern Trust “blatantly wasting taxpayer money on frivolous entertainment and golf tournaments.” On the surface, it incensed many people, including members of Congress. What were they thinking (or not!)? How can they do this when they have laid off hundreds of workers? As the story has unfolded, Northern Trust has high income clients, and typically provided activities in light of that. And they are financially strong – they never even asked for the TARP money. So what seemed like irrational behavior – throwing the party during trying times – was just Northern’s normal way of doing business for it’s specific clientele. And in fact they now say they want to return all the TARP money – they don’t need it.
What does this say to us? Without knowing the whole reason behind certain actions, these actions can often seem irrational. But when we peel back the curtains, we get another level of understanding. My premise today is that we have to peel back and get a better look when faced with seemingly irrational behavior. Rather that saying “that’s just crazy” and writing the person or incident off, see if you can find out what’s behind that. What’s the reason for their behavior? By probing deeper, your learning and understanding will grow as well.
This has happened a lot on the internet because of the speed of information – “falsehoods” presented so logically they seem like they must be true. There’s a whole website devoted to this called snopes. Snopes checks out rumors and tell you whether it was true or not. So next time you see something that sounds crazy on the internet (or maybe even sounds not so crazy that you immediately accept it at face value) check it out on snopes.
So the learning again is not to assume or take a person or statement on face value but to check it out and discover what’s behind it. Once you do, you’ll have expanded your understanding and learned what truly was the reason or cause for the behavior. And will also have learned a valuable lesson: that there’s often a reason for irrational behavior.