Lost in translation

Seth Godin on signals vs. causes. When we simplify the complex world around us, it is easy to mistake a signal for a cause. As Seth G. writes:

People who order wine with dinner might be bigger tippers, but persuading someone to order a bottle probably won’t change the way he tips.

Yet, so much of what we are told to do is based on things like teaching servers how to sell a bottle of wine because folks who order wine are bigger tippers. The world is complex. Sometimes we lose things in translation when trying to understand it.

Here’s another nice example from Godin’s post:

…it turns out that people who eat before bed are believed to gain more weight than those that don’t.

More likely…The kind of person who makes a habit out of eating when bored (just before bed) might very well be the kind of person that has to wrestle with weight.


2 thoughts on “Lost in translation

  1. The world is indeed complex but the human mind seeks patterns to make it simple. Ideally, when we find these patterns we test them out – so in the wine example, as a waiter I might try it and see if I got better tips when I convinced someone to buy wine.

    In addition to seeking patterns, though, we are highly influenced by the attitudes and statements of those around us so even if I noticed that people don’t tip more when I upsell them wine if ALL my other co-workers and my boss say upselling wine means bigger tips, I might persist anyway because peer pressure and the voice of authority are powerful things.

    • I agree. Peer pressure and voice of authority deaden feedback. Those are reasons why so much of what we believe isn’t true. The question I have is why are peer pressure and voice of authority so prone to not responding to the feedback?


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