The Convenience of Conventional Wisdom

There is considerable comfort in knowing we are not alone – be it in our ideas or actions. The comfort comes from the challenges in objectively evaluating the merits of an idea to make an informed decision.When we see many others adopting an idea – especially in the social media- we treat that as mental shortcut for adopting it.  Not all the people who follow an idea or a Guru  can be wrong, can they?

On the flip side, when we see someone going against the flow – taking decisions that do not fit our accepted norm, the conventional wisdom, then we tend to see that as risky or worse, foolish.

It is crazy to raise prices in recession: Almost everyone wrote off Starbucks for increasing prices.

It is risky to cut on inventories: NYTimes described the move by luxury retailers to cut inventories as risky.

It is stupid to give up market share: Almost all stock analysts ding companies that give up market share to maintain price premium.

If it does not fit the conventional wisdom it must be wrong.

In his book The Affluent Society, Galbarith first introduced the concept of Conventional Wisdom. He wrote,

In the never ending competition between what is right vs. what is merely acceptable, even though strategic advantage lies with the former all tactical advantage is with the latter. Acceptance comes from convenience, because finding what is right is hard and not convenient. Ideas that are familiar are easy to accept because everyone does it and end up having great stability.

Decision making is not a popularity contest. If it is just about following what is accepted, familiar, (Re-Tweeted the most) and convenient where is the competitive advantage?

Are you ready to leave the convenience of conventional wisdom and do the hard work of evaluating ideas on their own merits regardless of who said it and how popular it is?