Turn Problems Into Probabilities — Experiment Before Experience


This is a draft chapter of a book to be published this fall 2021 entitled Be Somebody — Extraordinary Lives. It will discuss the nature and cause of eminent and successful lives with some contrasting material on failure and disappointment. Please note, some chapters are in final form while others are in such a rough state they are better unread. Changes will occur frequently. If you have comments, please note them on the Medium page. The full list of chapters can be found here:

“Everything is settled for the greater good of the greatest number by the common sense of most after the consultation of all.” — Winston Churchill

Transformative Thinking

  1. Exchanging Problems for Possibilities
  2. Sir Francis Galton and The Wisdom of Crowds
  3. Elizabethan Wisdom
  4. P&G On How To Make Better Strategy Decisions
  5. Amos Tversky on Biased Thinking

Sir Francis Galton

In 1906, British scientist Sir Francis Galton was watching a crowd at the annual West of England Fat Stock and Poultry Exhibition where local farmers and townspeople gathered to appraise the quality of cattle, sheep, chickens, horses, and pigs. Galton was a highly respected 85-year-old researcher in the field of statistics and heredity. He was a cousin of Charles Darwin and one of modern science’s first professional researchers. Although his work took him down some blind and unfortunate alleys, in particular when it came to the subject of race, his development of the theory of crowd wisdom is behind every statistical finding we have today. His realization was that optimal decisions rely on two things,: diversity of opinion and independent judgment.

As Galton strolled the fairgrounds, he noticed a crowd placing bets on the weight of an ox on a scale. Every entrant wrote his or her best guess of the ox’s weight and handed it in like you might an election card at a voting booth. In fact, Galton wrote, “the average competitor was probably as well fitted for making a just estimate of the dressed weight of the ox as an average voter is of judging the merits of most political issues.”

Over 800 people guessed at the ox’s weight. Some had experience because they worked with livestock, whereas others were off the farm for two generations and knew nothing about how much an ox weighed. Galton compiled the 787 guesses (13 were illegible) and graphed them from highest to lowest to see if they would form a bell curve. The average of the estimates formed what Surowiecki calls “the collective wisdom of the Plymouth crowd.”

Galton presumed the average would be wrong — by a landslide. When he looked at his graph, it showed “the crowd had guessed that the ox would weigh 1,197 pounds.

Whereas the ox’s actual weight was 1,198 pounds. The crowd’s guess was one pound off.

Galton’s lesson is that “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them. Even if most of the people within a group are not especially well-informed or rational, it can still reach a collectively wise decision.”

Surowiecki says that for groups to make the right decisions, we must have “diversity and independence” because the right decision comes from vigorous debate and challenges, not a desire for harmony or agreement. Groups that allow individuals to be themselves are the smartest.

I’d like to take a moment to tell you about the subject of Be Somebody: Extraordinary Lives, how I got myself into this fine mess, as Oliver Hardy would say to Stanl Laurel, and why the science behind extraordinary lives can be an answer to our complex and, at times, unforgiving and uncaring world. Thoreau stated, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Based on my research, he wasn’t wrong, just too pessimistic. You would be surprised to find the things people change about themselves and their environments.

Talk to people on both sides of the political spectrum, and they will say the system is rigged. Thoreau more or less alluded to the same thing, and we resign ourselves to the drudgery of one day after the next, sweep the carpet, wash the car, pay the rent, and don’t forget that daily vitamin whose only effect seems to be on toilet water. Thoreau’s pessimism isn’t a verdict, just a conclusion that we haven’t figured out how to switch to lives of quiet determination that results in success — for ourselves and our families — and, if so inclined, leave the world a better place than we found it. That is the definition of extraordinary.

The good news is if you know how to work the system, the system works.In 1906, a few years before the Titanic’s maiden voyage, Galton was visiting the annual Fair of England Fat Stock and Poultry, and was busy watching a group “gathered to appraise the quality of each other’s cattle, sheep, chickens, horses, and pigs.” For an 86 year old renowned researcher in the field of statistics and heredity, nothing could be more fun. He discovered the principles that still guide our understanding of crowd wisdom.

As Galton strolled the fairgrounds, a group of men and women were placing bets on the weight of an ox standing by a scale. After they recorded their best guess, they submitted it on a piece of scrap paper like an election card at a voting booth. Galton recognized statistical gold when he saw it and recovered the slips of paper from the bin.

Eight hundred people took part in the bet. They were a mixed group — farmers who worked with livestock — others who were two generations into the industrial revolution and knew nothing about oxen. As he studied the estimates, he saw something profound, mindset diversity. “The average competitor was probably as well fitted for making a just estimate of the dressed weight of the ox as an average voter is of judging the merits of most political issues.”

Galton compiled the 787 guesses (13 were illegible), and graphed them “from highest to lowest.” The average produced “the collective wisdom of the Plymouth crowd.” Galton presumed the percentage of the guesses would be far off. The crowd pegged the ox at 1,197 pounds. He went over to the judge’s stand and inquired. The ox tipped the scale at 1,198 pounds.

As James Surowiecki noted in “Wisdom of Crowds,” the group was one pound off.

“Don’t write if you can speak, don’t speak if you can nod.”

When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains however improbable, must be the truth.

If you view problems in granular detail as a scientist does under a microscope, the problems turn into a series of small discoveries and adventures. A story illustrates.

In the ancient Greek myth, Sisyphus is punished when he ‘cheats’ death by giving people the secret to eternal life. The gods on Olympus are not happy because at that moment those delicious roast lamb dinners stopped because without fear, people didn’t sacrifice. If you see similarities to modern politics, that’s just a coincidence.

Most interpret this like Thoreau‘s “men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Every time Sisyphus pushes the boulder knowing it will roll down he has to reckon with the futility of life.

The way to overcome challenges is to break the boulder down, in this case literally, into something manageable and useful — a pebble solution.

Consider that the gods never mentioned Sisyphus has to roll it himself. Announce a muscle-building contest. How about a pulley attached to a larger boulder on the other side? Hook up a generator and you have a perpetual motion machine. What about a Dunkin Donuts franchise halfway? Seen through a granular perspective, the problem turns into a job, entertainment, and a solution to the energy crisis. Just like Elon Musk’s secret.

PS Don’t tell anyone.

PPS The Greek tragedian, Euripedes, tells us that Sisyphus was Odysseus’s father, and that fact brings our story full circle. Those who take significant risks to liberate us enable our odyssey.

Elizabethan Wisdom

Unless you are watching the BBC biopic, Wolf Hall, starring Damien Lewis as Henry VIII, you probably cannot tell us what a Lord Chancellor does. Sir Thomas More, the character played by Anton Lesser, is sentenced to be executed by Henry VII because of a brooding conflict over who calls the shots, the king or the papacy.

More cast his lot with the church and aruged for the supremacy of the Pope over the King of England. This was illegal, according to the Oath of Supremacy, an Act of Parliament which in 1529 made it a crime to support any authority that would be considered superior to the King’s. The second transgression was that More refused to sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul Henry’s marriage to his current wife, Catherine of Aragon. Then he refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England, and later he refused to acknowledge “the spiritual validity of the king’s second marriage.” While this in itself did not considered an Act of Treason, as he had wrritn the King confirming Anne Boleyn’s Queenship, but his refusal to attend the Coronation was seen as a rebuke to the King, and his enemies were ready to strike.

When More continued to refuse to sign the Act of Succession, which meant Boleyn’s children might not inherit the throne, More’s future was only a matter of time. He was arrested on treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London, refused to reconsider his position after being beseeched by Thomas Cromwell (played by Tom Rylance) and convicted at the trial which began on 1 July 1535. His judges included the new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley, as well as Anne Boleyn’s father, brother, and uncle. Hence the verdcit might have been predictable. The jury took less than fifteen minutes to find him guilty as charged. His punishment was to be “hanged, drawn, and quartered (standard fro traitors to the King) which Henry commuted to execution by decapitation. While kneeling, the executioner begged his pardon, More kissed and forgave him.

What makes the story of Thomas More so compelling today is that we still grapple with the big decisions of right and wrong, and our court system isn’t as clear as the one henry employed to help us arrive at nice neat verdicts as he did. But we do take some things away from this story that helps us in our search for better decision-making in life.

The word “chancellor” comes from Old French (Latin cancellus), and refers to the lattice he worked behind. Think of a barred window in a railroad ticket office or an old post office. In the early days of the Roman Empire, the chancellor was more like a notary who would permit dignitaries to enter the court. In grew in status and become, especially in England the person who prepared the documents for the crown and keeper of the Royal Seal, and sat as an intermediary between the courts, judges, and the Crown. Think of it like the U.S. Attorney General who advises the president and sits between him and the Justice Department.

In the 16th century, the king’s chancellor was Sir Francis Bacon, the English philosopher who served as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England.

The Chancellor role was a big deal. It has the highest ranking of any of the King’s appointments, higher than the Prime Minister with responsibility for the effective functioning of the courts. The role goes back to the time when the Royal Seal was used instead of a signature, as it must have been hard to do on horseback as Henry VIII often was, the chancellor became the keeper of the Royal Seal. This was like a ‘get out of jail free’ and American Express Black card joined together. Nice work if you can get it.

As the King’s most trusted servant, important petitions were sent to the Lord Chancellor and the bigger problems were also brought to the King’s attention. It soon developed into a tribunal (justice court) in which the “Chancery” was called upon to determine the fairness of a case (called “equity” courts) that might be too complex for common law. It is where the United States gets its Delaware Chancery court, the court of business which forgoes the jury system and establishes justice through its tribunal faculty.

It reflects our need to get smart people in positions where they have influence, something wrong with national politics today. You may be familiar with Sir Thomas Moore in the BBC series, Wolf Hall, played by Anton Lesser. Henry VIII has him executed, which iis what happens to people in hig places with long faces. In that regard, the Chancellor became known as the “Keeper of the King’s Conscience.” In 1529, after Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of York, was dismissed for failing to procure the annulment of Henry VIII’s first marriage, laymen tended to be more favored for appointment to the office.

Bacon suffered no such defeat. But what he did do was question the orghodoxy of his day, and decided that settled wisdom rests on settled science. In fact, his theory is called “the scientific method” and it paved the path for modern science and medicine.

Bacon has been called the father of empiricism.[7] His works argued for the possibility of scientific knowledge based only upon inductive reasoning and careful observation of events in nature. Most importantly, he argued science could be achieved by the use of a skeptical and methodical approach whereby scientists aim to avoid misleading themselves. Although his most specific proposals about such a method, the Baconian method, did not have a long-lasting influence, the general idea of the importance and possibility of a skeptical methodology makes Bacon the father of the scientific method.

Bacon was the first recipient of the Queen’s counsel designation, which was conferred in 1597 when Elizabeth I of England reserved Bacon as her legal advisor.

Bacon died of pneumonia, with one account by John Aubrey stating that he had contracted the condition while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat.

Bacon’s Method

State the problem

Form a hypothesis

Analyze results

Test hypothesis

Draw conclusion

22 January 1561–9 April 1626 English philosopher and Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England Discoverer of the Scientific Method

  1. Strategic Challenge
  2. Discover Possibilities
  3. Check Conditions
  4. Evaluate Results
  5. Strategic Probability

“The scientific method allowed transparency to guide our decisions.”

— AG Lafley

Focus on Possibilities Not Problems

Strategic Decisioninig from P&G:

“When we are too critical, it restricts creative thinking, and we neglect less obvious but brilliant ideas.” — A.G. Lafley

P&G’s Secret For Coming Up With The Big Idea

“First, the team had to learn to “incubate” untested ideas to the point that problem solvers could take a whack at fixing them.”

AG Lafley, the former CEO of Procter and Gamble, realized no one has a monopoly on success. But if he could find a way to help his teams come up with the right ideas, it could light up a new era.

The chance of catching a well-known company in a glaring mistake is what gets journalists up in the morning. Like the time CBS turned down Monday Night Football or when Mars Candy told Steven Spielberg not to use M&Ms in “E.T.” And who can forget the time Blockbuster passed up Netflix for $50 million, then proceeded to go bankrupt? Although these moves seem braindead in hindsight, they were taken by experts based on hard data and thorough analysis. So how could anything so obvious go so wrong? That was the question AG Lafley, CEO of P&G, desperately wanted to answer because he was facing a similar “bet the company” moment.

The Wall of Failure

P&G is regarded as the top brand platform for consumer goods in the world, a reputation that suggests it can create strategy in its sleep. But the company has its share of bloopers, and it goes to extra effort to make sure everyone knows it. According to P.R. Week, there is a display at P&G headquarters called a “wall of failure.” It is a place product managers can browse the timeline of products that bombed, promotions that didn’t promote, and extensions that failed to extend. The wall includes such flops as Febreze Scentstories, the air freshener that looked like a CD player. When the brand team made the inspired decision to have Shania Twain sing in the commercial, it only added to the confusion. A willingness to face up to mistakes is part of the P&G secret to success, but there is a second reason the company likes to study mistakes. It goes to the heart of how the company comes up with the big idea.

Oil for Old Ladies

As P&G’s Lafley pondered the problem of what led superior teams to make inferior decisions, it was clear this wasn’t just an academic question. He needed to come up with a radical shift in the way the company was dealing with a major category. Skincare was the fastest growing segment of the beauty business, and P&G’s only entrant was an aging product called Oil of Olay. It competed with Nivea, L’Oreal, and Clinique, and all anyone needed to know was that the market snidely referred to it as “oil for old ladies.” The company missed the shift to skincare, and the question wasn’t just how to get back in the game but was it over?

Lafley decided to look at all the factors that contributed to the success of brand teams at P&G. He analyzed the methods employed by asking was it the people or the process that made the difference? Was the data wrong or the analysis? How could failure spring from a team where everyone was an expert? The answer turned out quite differently from what he expected.

Imagination vs. Intelligence

The conclusion became clear, that failed teams made the same fatal mistake: they came to decisions when they should have been exploring a range of possibilities. What this meant was that the creative process which was designed to generate ideas could not stand up to too much scrutiny in the early going. It also turned out that the failures at CBS, M&M, and Blockbuster traced back to the same bias: no one on those teams imagined a future that turned out the way it did. What was lacking wasn’t intelligence; it was imagination.

“When we are too critical, it restricts creative thinking, and we neglect less obvious but brilliant ideas.”

— A.G. Lafley, CEO P&G

How Teams Fail

Lafley knew that when strategy teams meet to debate, it can be “difficult and even acrimonious.” He had participated in umpteen of these sessions where decision-makers typically go offsite to review thick binders of well-rehearsed data while everyone’s eyes glaze over. He believed that this type of meeting ends up as “negotiations between powerful executives with strong preconceptions.” And afterwards, the skeptics begin to undermine the decision.

To come up with the right skincare strategy, Lafley had to fix the group dynamics. If the team can’t come together at the start, how was the outcome going to succeed? He understood from his experience as a product manager for Ivory Snow that all teams suffer from biases, regardless of how astute or experienced they may be. Finding and fixing them was the logical way to proceed, but it also meant changing the way the culture worked.

Framing The Possibilities

The scientific method

  1. Define ‘conditions’ required for success
  2. Convert problems into choices

2. Define possibilities not solutions

Second Step: Identify The Possibilities

Convert choices into possibilities

3. Check group buy in of possibilities

Evaluate Results

. Develop a robust process for debate

Strategic Probability

Focus on problem solving

CRITICS Focus on risks

CAMPAIGNERS Focus on winning

Lafley started with a given — the goal of a brand team is to generate the right strategic ideas for senior management. What was essential in the development of a big idea was to get the order of the steps right.

First, the team had to start with a “wide range of possibilities” from the conventional to the outrageous. This implied that some ideas would be impractical, some crazy, some that were tried but failed before, as in the case of Apple’s Smartwatch. The team had to learn to “incubate” untested ideas until the problem solvers could take a whack at fixing them. This meant resisting the instinct to identify finalists too early in the process. Once they got past that stage, they separated the real winners from those that sounded like winners through an objective evaluation. The final choice defined itself by that time.

It was going to be a big undertaking. That’s when Lafley realized he needed new ground rules, and developed the seven steps below that would become the P&G method for generating big ideas.

The 7 Ground Rules

The scientific method

  1. Define ‘conditions’ required for success
  2. Convert problems into choices

2. Define possibilities not solutionsSecond Step: Identify The Possibilities

Convert choices into possibilities

3. Check group buy in of possibilities

Evaluate Results

. Develop a robust process for debate

Strategic Probability

Focus on problem solving

CRITICS Focus on risks

CAMPAIGNERS Focus on winning

  1. The possibilities framing stage is open-ended with ideas accepted uncritically and subject to testing at a later stage. The team should form a consensus around ideas worth keeping, and it should be a broad list, with some that make people uncomfortable.
  2. The team should review a list of market conditions required for success and test it against each idea before it decides to include it on a final list of possibilities.
  3. After arriving at a final set of possibilities that meet all critical conditions, if there is still a skeptic, that person should take the lead in applying the right test for that possibility. The risk, of course, is that a skeptic might set an unachievable standard. In practice, this does not happen because people usually demonstrate skepticism because they don’t feel heard.
  4. In the idea generation process bosses advise, they do not command. Teams run the show.
  5. Limit group size but not diversity. Lafley defines as this rule as include people with different backgrounds and who worked for interesting, even strange companies, as well as operational people who deepen practical solutions, and people from outside the firm’s culture. Be sure to have individuals across generations to seek the outspokenness of the novice and the status quo of the experienced hand.
  6. The final test of a good debate was an outcome that intrigues the group enough to make it question the existing order and one idea that stretches the group’s comfort level. If neither condition is met, it is time for another round of possibility generation.
  7. Finally, choose a respected inside problem solver or an outside expert as team facilitator.

The idea generation process at P&G created a team of brand champions, not challengers, at the idea generation stage. The first step for the team at Olay was to examine a range of “possibilities” uncritically. Then, the list was subject to certain conditions necessary for success, and then those conditions were tested by third party experts and outsiders. The choices that rose out of this process ranged from acquiring Clinique to rebranding “Covergirl” as a platform. It led to a robust, interesting set of options, which is the purpose of the idea generation process. Ultimately, the team recognized that the best “possibility” was to reframe Oil of Olay into a “masstige” brand known as Olay. Today, Olay is a nearly 3 billion dollar brand that caters to upscale younger women through mass distribution channels.

Lafley wrote about this experience in his book Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works. He makes clear that the real problem with teams is when they reject novel ideas before we have an honest debate. It is often those crazy, out of the box ideas that lead to the right solution.

In the 1990s, Art Lafley came down with a headache. The problem was that it was the fastest-growing segment, and the company’s ability to launch new brands wasn’t anything to brag about. When Lafley (now known as AG) became CEO, he took the company from $50 billion in sales in 2000 to $160 billion by the time he left in 2010. He gave the strategy world a gift when he wrote Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works. He makes clear that our biggest problem is we reject good ideas because we think we have all the answers. Yet, it is often crazy, out of the box ideas that lead to solutions.

In the fastest segment of skincare, the company had a bottom fisher called Oil of Olay. It had to compete with L’Oreal and Neutrogena, and the trade recorded its opinion by calling it “Oil for Old Ladies.” The Olay bottle sported a tagline, “beauty liquid.” Lafley thought the company could and should do better.

He put together a team to review strategic choices, as he wrote in Harvard Business Review, “dramatically transform Oil of Olay into a worthy competitor of brands like L’Oréal, Clarins, and La Prairie, or spend billions of dollars to buy a major existing skincare brand.”

Lafley took and oldie but goodie approach that had been around for five centuries called “the scientific method.” In 1620, discovered by Sir Francis Bacon, it helped to confirm the cause of rampant contagions.

The scientific method attributed them to unsanitary conditions in hospitals and not witches of folklore. It forced humankind to state the problem, form a hypothesis, test and analyze before forming a conclusion.

Lafley thought about strategy the same way.

Lafley knew that when strategy teams met, it was “difficult and even acrimonious.” He had participated in umpteen sessions where decision-makers go offsite to review thick binders while eyes glaze over.

· Strategy Debate Team

· Most importantly, the debate team should represent diversity — in specialty, background, and experience.

· Pick individuals who have nothing to do with the process, so they aren’t wedded to any particular idea.

Keep the group small.

1. Small: limit group size but not diversity. Eight is great. Jeff Bezos calls it a two pizza meeting (the amount eight people need to stuff themselves!)

2. Diversity: include different backgrounds, people who worked in unusual environments, operational types, and poets, people outside the firm’s culture. Be sure to have people across generations and demographics.

3. Expertise: Not everyone should be an expert on the subject. The outspokenness of the novice can be as helpful as the experienced hand.

4. Leader: Choose a respected problem solver or an expert outsider as a leader. Not the team’s boss, in any case.

Ground Rules of Debate

Strategy debate should be a “slow brain” process like a stew. Get people out of the company location and into stimulating, relaxed environments with breaks for walks and talks between sessions. Plan on meeting over subsequent weeks because the in-between periods distill the best ideas into solid concepts.

1. Accept all possibilities without debate.

2. Some ideas will make people uncomfortable.

3. No one dominates, especially the idea proposer.

4. Conditions pass the “must-have” test.

5. Ask questions, not demand explanations.

6. Consensus moves the debate forward (does not limit)

7. Truth is about discovery, not opinion.

8. No bosses — teams run the show.

Strategy Development

There were five steps in P&G’s strategy, just as Bacon proposed, and Lafley changed the terminology to reflect a modern view: establish possibilities, frame conditions, test conditions, analyze results, and the final choice.

1. Identify the Challenge

In Lafley’s words, we must ask, “what does this company do well that the market might value? What are the underserved needs that competitors have left for us?

2. List Possibilities

The possibilities framing stage requires uncritical acceptance of ideas.

Then, after they were all on the table, the team forms a consensus around the winners. He added, “it should be a broad list.”

The team at P&G came up with six.

The first was to acquire a significant global brand. Second, build Olay around its core audience of older women by adding a wrinkle-proofing promise. Third, go upmarket into prestige distribution channels like department stores. Fourth, reinvent by sticking with mass retail partners that would invest in a “masstige” experience. The sixth wasn’t even a brand decision: sideline Olay and go with P&G’s Cover Girl as a brand.

3. Set a List of Conditions

The team should review a list of market conditions required for success and test each before deciding on a final list of possibilities.

The way to think about it is to ask what is needed for each possibility to work. If you are going upmarket, you need an affluent audience. You aren’t questioning (that comes later) whether thane an affluent audience is right.

The group should develop a full set of possibilities, and agree on all “must-have” conditions.

The P&G team felt t six of nine possibilities met all the conditions, and one of them seemed most promising.

4. Perform Evaluation

Evaluations should be by outside experts or internal people who do not play a role in the strategy debate. If testing is accurate, the results are final.

Lafley applied what he calls the “lazy man’s” approach. He likes to test conditions in reverse order of confidence, that is, testing the ideas that you find least appealing. This way, if plans don’t pass the test, they are tossed.

The Olay test dwelled on price points. Lafley writes:

1. At $12.99, there was a positive response and a reasonably good rate of purchase. But very few department store shoppers were interested at that price point. It was trading people up from within the channel, not new customers.

2. At $15.99, purchase intent dropped. The price point was in no-man’s land — expensive without signaling differentiation, and for a prestige shopper, not fancy enough.

3. At $18.99, the team learned that consumers were crossing over from prestige department and specialty stores to buy Olay in discount, drug, and grocery stores. That price point sent precisely the right message.

5. Choose Strategic Probability

After arriving at a final set of possibilities that meet all critical conditions, the group tests results, and the best possibility turns into the final probability.


· Olay chose to go with “an upmarket product called Olay Total Effects for $18.99. The brand dismissed as “Oil for Old Ladies” was transformed into a prestige-like product line at a price point close to that of department store brands.

· P&G might have hoped for ‘a billion-dollar global skincare brand. But in less than a decade, the Olay brand surpassed $2.5 billion in annual sales by spawning a series of “boutique” product lines — starting with Total Effects and following with Regenerist, Definity, and Pro-X — that attracted more prestige shoppers and commanded prices eventually exceeding $50.

· The reason the possibilities approach worked so well was a change in mindset, not asking, “What should we do?” to “What might we do?” Old school brand managers would focus on the probabilities too soon, and not give the possibilities a chance to germinate. The conclusion is strategy is a creative process, and Lafley put the poetry back into P&G.

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

When Keynes uttered these words, he wasn’t giving us a method by which to get out of a losing argument, he was telling us to be reasonable. His meaning was that if the facts change on which your assumption is based, the assumption must change. It is a recipe for clear thinking.

Keynes’ statement reflects The Reasonable Man Theory (which we can reasonably change to “reasonable men and women”). It is the body of logic on which all English law rests, “the Laws place great weight on the Reasonable Man. They will not specify exactly what ought to be done in all circumstances, and will phrase their demands in terms of what a reasonable man would do.”

A reasonable man in 1776 would have given colonists more freedom, but the British abandoned reasonable thinking momentarily. They have since recovered and empirical evidence proves they have a more than firm grasp of the subject. After all, the British people revolted against tyranny when they forced King John in 1215 to sign the Magna Carta. When Charles Ist confused religious devotion to love of the people, he lost his heart and subsequently his head. Through thick and thin, the British have reasonably rejected unreasonableness by reducing the power of the monarchy, but keeping maintained the Crown Jewels intact for the day King George VII is coronated.




The journey from ordinary to extraordinary

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Jeff Cunningham

Jeff Cunningham

2019 Telly Award IconicVoices.tv; ex-publisher Forbes

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