Geo Week News

January 20, 2015

Hidden Beliefs Driving the Market

When I was in college I had a philosophy professor who was particularly influential on my thinking. Like most philosophy professors, he loved playing the devil’s advocate, but he most enjoyed making students disagree with themselves. He would do this by having them write a worldview paper on a particular topic.

In case you are not familiar with this format, the idea is to record a series of statements of fact or belief about a particular topic. Next, you review the statements and find that they can be classified in one of three ways: 1) they are in agreement, 2) some are in conflict but there is a clear direction or generalization of though across the statements, or 3) they are in complete conflict and it is a wonder that you can sleep at night! The funny thing about this is that no matter how factual the subject is, the statements are not just a list of facts. You include your beliefs, as in the absence of facts they may be used in decision-making.

The point is to help predict how you might act by attempting to define your core belief or way of thinking through a summation of codified thought.  

One of my duties at SmartGeoMetrics is product development. In this capacity, I spend a lot of time looking for and evaluating new hardware and software solutions. Over the years there is one thing that has been consistent. Every company with a new product wants to get it in the Australian and North American markets as soon as possible. The general consensus is that those markets have a much faster adoption rate for new technologies than Asian and European markets. (Ironically, much of the new tech is being developed in those very markets due to government assistance afforded to start-ups in those countries, but I digress…)

The question is, why are we so willing to adopt new tech? I’m starting to think that it is because, in Australia or the US, our worldviews are much less affected by institutional history than those in Asia and Europe. We have shorter institutional histories, and I think it gives us less baggage and keeps us more nimble. We have fewer failures in our history (mostly due to having less history!) and as such we expect to be successful and innovate and move forward. That is our worldview for the most part.

On the personal level, every day many of us have to make decisions about which direction(s) our respective companies should take. Which equipment do I buy? Whom should I hire or fire? How much should I charge for this project? Your worldview colors those decisions. 

On the company level, the worldview may simply be a product of work history. Once again, the 3D-imaging related fields are fortunate to have a short history filled with more growth and success than failure. However, because it is so short, many of us fall back on our own work history and experiences, many of which predate our time in the scanning industry. I think that is why so many of us compare the predicted growth curve of scanning to GPS. GPS is the technological industry that many of us were in prior to 3D imaging (which, it should be noted, was a tremendous success). However, does that make it accurate?

In short, no, it does not. It is simply another pattern that we use to understand the world around us. In the end another pattern may prove more accurate, but none of us can just sit on the sideline and wait. We have to make decisions, even if those decisions are simply educated guesses. The key is in the “educated” part of it. While I do not recommend it on the project level necessarily, I think writing out a worldview on company and market direction issues can be invaluable in both codifying your own thinking and in understanding the mindset of others within your firm. In any one company you may all be in it together but most came to their current position with ideas and beliefs in place; be they optimistic or straight-up baggage. 

I encourage you to take up these issues as you launch into 2015. We don’t all have to agree (company-wide or industry-wide) but we need to know where we think we should go and if everyone onboard thinks that we are headed for the same destination.  If we can’t decide what we do agree on it’s very difficult to make any forward progress!

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