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... and when he tried to explain it, he was wrong, in ways any attentive observer could work out.



We should separate observation from explanation. There are plenty of valuable observations made by people and these observations should stand on their own without the observer also having to explain it.


This is something I've noticed as well. As both a client and as an IT troubleshooter, I try to be keenly aware of this distinction. When I'm at the doctor's office, I relay what I've observed, and try to refrain from any speculation of the cause. Likewise, when asked to fix a problem, I try to ignore the explanation the client is offering and focus solely on the observation.

I think it's very easy to get hung up on refuting or confirming the observer's explanation and ignore the observation. For as much as observations are worth, if someone says they saw a strange animal, I might believe them, if they said they saw Bigfoot, I wouldn't, but that's a very good moment to ask questions.


Maxwell's laws continue to work just fine despite Maxwell's explanations for them being complete hookum. If an observation is insufficiently precise the lack of explanation can be a problem. But high quality observation is useful regardless of the explanation for it.


...and lives were lost because people couldn't accept a correct procedure with an incorrect explanation.

(Would you only take a cancer drug if the oncologist can explain exactly how it works?)


Off topic, but this is seemingly everything in management. So often, "Doing what feels right" can really pay off from a team/individual happiness POV. But, there is no "methodology" that could justify what I need to have a conversation with someone.


Someone once told me the benefit of management theories is that they motivate people to take action, try things, and think.


Or they have to come up with some bullshit metric that justifies things.


How do you differentiate a correct procedure with an incorrect explanation from an incorrect procedure?


Let’s simplify the question. How do you differentiate an correct procedure from an incorrect procedure? The correct procedure can be observed to work.


The correct procedure has been observed to work, but not everything that is observed to work is correct. This is particularly true when "correct" still comes with a probability of failure in specific cases.

Explanations need to be tested to verify they are correct. Incorrect explanations delivered authoritatively lead to bad extrapolations, which in turn lead to incorrect procedures. So, if something has been observed to work but an explanation has not been verified, the proper response at the practitioner level is "This tends to work, but we aren't sure why".


> The correct procedure has been observed to work, but not everything that is observed to work is correct.

Procedures are neither correct nor incorrect but rather effective or ineffective. Whether the explanation is correct or incorrect is irrelevant if the procedure is effective. Of course we would prefer to have both the effective procedure and the correct explanation but if we insist on only applying procedures with correct explanations we are not doing the best we can.

So, I would extend the proper response to, "This tends to work, we don't know why, but you should try it."


It works.




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