October 8, 2007

Skepticism, if used diligently, can bridge the chasm between unrealistic expectations and realistic possibilities.

The world of business is not perfect. In fact, it is not supposed to be perfect. It is perhaps a collage of contradictions. Every situation is grasped differently by different individuals. Some see amazing potential in an idea, while others trash it. In such a scenario, the real challenge before a leader or a manager is to how to bridge the chasm between two extreme ends to marry optimism with reality.

Skepticism may be the answer to this challenge. Skepticism, as in philosophy, is based on the principle that "there is no such thing as certainty in human knowledge." The word is derived from Greek verb "skeptomai" which means "to look carefully, to reflect."

Generally, skepticism in business is taken with a negative connotation. But, I feel, this should change and skepticism should be used as tool for "reality check" of an idea or situation. Every idea or a situation, seemingly however breath-taking or absurd, should be subjected to a series of harsh questioning. Only upon passing this trial by fire questioning session, should an idea be approved or rejected. This is not to see any idea or a situation as suspicious; but to see it as a hypothesis and test its validity by trying to prove it wrong by all means of logic and questioning. A great idea in all likelihood would survive the grind while many a hollow idea, though brilliant sounding, will perish.

Of course, this is not a full-proof way of assessing the potential of an idea or a situation. Mistakes will still happen. Nevertheless, the success rate of striking gold and avoiding future disappointment would be higher with the help of diligent skepticism.


  1. deepanjali // October 9, 2007 at 10:23 AM  

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  2. Atul // October 11, 2007 at 11:55 PM  

    Mayank boss, the words are yours but thoughts are very much mine... can't agree more .. i guess we all are tapping into the same cosmic intelligence, consciousness for our thoughts and hence this feeling of "deja vu" ..

    guess our upcoming book will have to thank the whole cosmos :-)

  3. Nirav - Gmail // October 14, 2007 at 9:03 PM  

    Hi Mayank,

    i had read a paper last year on Devil's advocate and their usefullness in improving knowldge of thngs that we do. Your note reminded me of the same paper. I need to find that paper and go back and re-read it.

    Point taken, if used +vely skepticism can be used to harness and build better systems/sloutions.

    My personal thoughts , the barrier to using skepticism is the human nature and a persons ability/inability to accept the comments.