Hump Day Wisdom: An Inconvenient Question

  • What am I pretending not to see or pretending does not matter here?
  • What issues am I creating with this decision that someone else will have to solve?
  • Who will bear the implications of this decision?

A year ago this week, the Interstate 35 highway bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis collapsed.  It took 13 seconds for the bridge to become a twisted wreck, killing 13 and injuring 100 people.  It should not have been a surprise.  The bridge had been categorized as “structurally unsound”.  And it is not by a long shot the only one.  Roughly a quarter of all bridges in the U.S. are known to be structurally unsound.  How could this happen?

I can imagine a few scenarios.  But at the top of the list is that we simply did not budget for maintenance when we built them.  Leaders who think systemically understand that while this might get a short term benefit, we create problems for ourselves when we simply ignore the parts of the system that are not convenient or do not support a decision we have already made.

There is plenty of brain research to support how easily we can “not see” information that is either what we do not want to see or do not expect to see.  We all have a story and it is the exceptional leader who can get outside his or her own story to see, and consider, the larger picture.

Want a refresher?  Go read Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline