Leading Blog






06.05.06

Three Theories are Better than One

William Perry
The late Harvard professor of education William Perry Jr. (1913-1998), once remarked, “To have any idea of what is going on in a situation, you need at least three good theories.” Perry was trying to promote learning and understanding. The idea being that one theory traps you in your own thinking, your own dogma. Overconfidence in one’s own opinions can be an obstacle to learning. With two theories you can be begin to see more—another side to a situation. Yet, two theories are limiting as they can lead you to simple reductions and conclusions brought about by black and white, binary thinking. With three or more theories in play you begin to see the nuances. Your mind becomes open to the fact that there are more explanations to what is going on, giving you a more complete picture. By taking more into account you can create deeper understanding and make decisions more in line with reality.

You can of course, take this too far and get caught up in all sorts of mind games and become mired in overanalyzing. This generally isn’t our problem however. We tend to jump to generalizations and oversimplifications without a clear understanding of reality thus repeating the same old thinking. We need to cast a wider net, asking more and different questions. We need to keep a balance. Concerning theories, Perry thought it was worth noting: "The wisdom doesn't come from the theories; the theories come from the wisdom. And the wisdom comes from the defeat of all the more attractive alternatives." And in a cautionary tone, "With all these theories, it would be a good thing, of course, to keep an open mind. But the problem with an open mind is that it's so drafty."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:00 AM
| Comments (0) | Thinking



SEARCH THIS BLOG


SAP Concur

Entrepreneurs

Leadership Books
How to Do Your Start-Up Right
STRAIGHT TALK FOR START-UPS



Explore More

Leadership Books
Grow Your Leadership Skills
NEW AND UPCOMING LEADERSHIP BOOKS

Leadership Minute
Leadership Minute
BITE-SIZE CONCEPTS YOU CAN CHEW ON

Leadership Classics
Classic Leadership Books
BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU LEAD


Email
Get the LEAD:OLOGY Newsletter delivered to your inbox.    
Follow us on: Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Instagram

© 2019 LeadershipNow

All materials contained in https://www.LeadershipNow.com are protected by copyright and trademark laws and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than private, non-commercial viewing purposes. Derivative works and other unauthorized copying or use of stills, video footage, text or graphics is expressly prohibited.