Why Stereotyping Makes Issues Look Like a Wolves

Your brain is amazing

It has a rekmabrale kanck of tainkg in ltos of infotmraion, sitfing it and cnretaig mennaig from it.  It deos this by mtahcing pttaerns, lokoing for comnomality with tnihgs that it has seen in the psat, and tehn finlig taht infotmarion away.  That is why you are albe to mkae ssene of this pragaaprh, eevn tgouhh it is gibsberih

The ability to quickly match patterns and draw conclusions is hugely important for our survival.  If it has four legs, is running towards you and it looks a bit like a wolf, then it is best to worry about whether or not it really is a wolf from a vantage point high up in a tree, rather than hanging about to be absolutely sure

There is a flip side though

The older we get, the more we have “seen it before” the more we are convinced by our pattern matching and the more we stereotype

And the more we stereotype and continue to see the world through the same glasses the harder it becomes to think outside the box, it is, after all, a box of our own creation, and a very comfortable box at that

Unfortunately, if we always see problems (or wolves) the same way we will never come up with any new ways of dealing with them

Try another perspective

The next time a wolf is bearing down on you, hard as it is, (and it will be) you should look at it from another perspective, you may well come up with an innovative way of dealing with it

Unless of course it is howling, in which case you can always retire to the top of the tree.  I will be there waiting

StereotypeRead another opinion

Image by fireflythegreat


  1. Hi James,
    You point to an existential problem that we all face. One way I heard of dealing with that from a friend, Crispin Reid at Brandhouse, is to use ‘lateral experts’ from time to get a different perspectives from time to time, to get a completely fresh view of your situation.

    Do you use that in your organisation or have you seen it applied in other orgs?


    • James Lawther says:

      Now there is a thought. The problem most organisations is that they hire in their own likeness, difficult to work for a bank unless you have previously worked for a bank, difficult to work in automotive unless you have previously worked in automotive.

      Lateral experts are few and far between. Thanks for the idea


  2. maz iqbal says:

    Hello James

    You have pointed out the trap – that is the good news. The not so good news is that it is not at all easy to escape from this trap. In essence you are asking the devil to police the devil! Not likely.

    Zen Buddhism deals with this through the practice of humility – so that you do not take yourself, your views, your desires so seriously. It also deals with it through cultivating compassion – that allows you to seek, hear, see the perspectives of others.

    Adrian makes a good point: make it a practice to get outsiders to provide their point of view. I’d go further and say invite the person/s who you know take a very different view from you on the issue at hand. That is really not that hard to do. The access to doing this is being present to an operating from the context that at best your gut feeling /. point of view is no better than a toss of the coin. Better still assume that the point of view that you are most attached to is the one that is most likely to be incomplete, misleading and possibily downright mistaken.

    With my love

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