October 02, 2008

Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Wrong

Try to see it my way...

It's funny how a chance remark from a child can lead to a discussion on the timeless battle between good and evil.

As we were driving to his game on Saturday, my nine-year old gave me the heads-up on a dinosaur (whose name I've since forgotten), started quizzing me about the ages of pre-history (Ice, Stone, Bronze and the rest) and asked how long each period was before Biblical times. As I foostered about, trying to recall the bits and pieces of information learned and then half-forgotten, it was obvious that I knew a lot less about pre-history than he did.

As we talked, he seemed especially struck by the difference between the information which scientists deduced from physical evidence of earlier times and the details that emerged from the oral traditions and writings of the ancients around the time of Christ. It was a short step then to a conversation about how we might judge the reliability of evidence that's offered to us by those who have a particular world view, who urge us to see things their way or, as they would have it, the right way.

Our conversation came to an abrupt halt as we arrived at the pitch and Louis joined his team-mates to warm up for the game but my mind was racing now. Why are we so insistent that others see things our way? What is it in us that leaves us squirming when we're asked to leave our minds open to two or more possibilities for any length of time?

I say 'tomato', you say 'tomahto' but very few of us are inclined to leave it at that. More often than not, we fiercely believe that our way is right. I say 'tomato', you say 'tomahto', but you're wrong!

Deep down, we seem to have an extraordinary need for moral certainty in our thinking and our choices. Even those who preach laissez-faire can argue violently on behalf of that particular choice. It's as though we're hell-bent on making the world fit our way of seeing it.

This has important implications on customer choice. If there are two ways of looking at the world (my way and the wrong way), then it's vital that we make sure our offer is on the right side as far as our customer is concerned.

Otherwise, there's a real danger that our offer will be cast into that place where there is endless torment and gnashing of teeth. Anyone who doubts this need only sit at our (Irish-French) dinner table when the merits of tomato ketchup versus mayonnaise are being vehemently argued (the sauce of all evil...).

Or listen to the heated exchanges between advocates of Apple and Microsoft in the online world. Or Pepsi versus Coke, Macdonald's against Burger King... you could call it taking the moral high-brand.

Right, left, right, left, right, wrong.

The truth is that as we quick-march our way through the world, we're not simply keeping step, we're often stamping out imagined heresies and threats to our way of seeing the world.

The truth is..?

OK then, try to see it my way...

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