Why Our View Of The World May Not Be Correct

Why Our View Of The World May Not Be Correct

Recently a friend of mine, Robert Tripp, suggested that I read a book called “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rowling. Robert suggested that I read this following a discussion about how the media present information and how our world views may be at odds with the facts.

The book helped me understand a little more about how our brains are prewired to work and process information and about how the way information is presented can influence our perceptions of what is actually happening.

The book starts with 13 multiple-choice questions the author has asked audiences around the world. Most people get the answers wrong, not because the people aren’t well educated or well read but rather because of how they react to and interpret the information they receive.

Three of the questions are:

In Level 1 countries across the world (the countries where most people live on less than $2 per day), what percentage of girls finish primary school?

A) 10 percent
B) 60 percent
C) 40 percent
D) 30 percent

Where does the majority of the world’s population live?

A) High-income countries
B) Middle-income countries
C) Low-income countries

In the last 20 years, the percentage of the world’s population living at Level 1 has:

A) Doubled
B) Remained the same
C) Halved
D) Tripled

Worryingly high numbers of those surveyed get the answers wrong (answers in the book).

So why do I believe that this book would be a good read for board directors?

The book makes the point that how we view the world does influence how we see markets and where the real growth areas are. Too many companies focus their marketing and sales activities in those geographies that they believe will generate the biggest returns when in reality there are hundreds of millions of potential customers in geographies that most of us assume would be too poor to be suitable candidates for marketing and sales efforts.

Boards should look critically at how their biases may influence decisions that may not always be in the best interests of their companies.

This leads to my second conclusion that maybe we should look at better and smarter ways to present information in board packs and not just relay raw information but also provide some level of context and trend analysis.

The book may just make you challenge some of the things you believe are true and help you to become more questioning in the future – both good habits in board directors. It may also lift your spirits, which is always a good thing for a board director (and for anyone else for that matter).