When we make a judgment, we are hopefully reaching for a solution either to something that is problematic
for our family, organization, or community, or even world, or to something that is bothering us personally.  
Sometimes, however, what appears to be a judgment to others is more accurately described as a reaction, a
behaviour that occurs so quickly that it occurred virtually without the deliberation of thinking.

Sometimes, such behaviours are extremely productive.  Malcolm Gladwell's book "
Blink!" describes how we
often find that our first impressions prove later to be extraordinarily insightful, and this phenomenon, when
we later reflect on a happy instance of it, encourages us to trust our 'gut instincts'.  But judgments based on
first impressions do not always lead to productive outcomes.  Have you noticed that others' judgments
concerning your intentions are not infrequently grossly incorrect?  Perhaps the same may sometimes be true
of your judgments of others' intentions?

A most painful experience is to be caught having made a snap judgment of another that one thought came
from superb insight, only later to learn that one's judgment had been significantly biased, and therefore both
unfair and unwise.  In my case I can think of quite a few judgments I made and acted upon that at least one
of my parents, or a boss, warned me against.  I certainly had a belief at the time that my judgment was
'sound'.  Yet in retrospect I have to acknowledge that my judgments then would have been more accurately
described as only unreasonable, irrational, unfair, or downright insane.

Legions of writers tell us that our judgment of others is very often unfair, so I think it's only fair to add that,
sometimes, our judgments are unfair to ourselves, and sometimes to both.  But to whomever a judgment is
unfair, is it necessary?
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In problem-solving, we learn to make assumptions.  To employ agency-and-effect rationality -- the process by which we analyze
problems or issues, draw conclusions concerning their nature, causation or precipitation, and hopefully devise solutions -- we have no
alternative to making assumptions.  Without insightful assumptions that we feel are reliable, the most rational of our problem-solving
thinking will only mislead us.  Indeed our successes as leaders depend upon the quality of the assumptions we include in the problem-
solving we have been mandated to execute or the goals we seek or agree to achieve.  Excellent problem-solving, therefore, requires
that we make temporary assumptions on the basis either of research or of
intuitional judgment.  It also requires that we re-visit our
assumptions, especially if they were intuitions, when we become aware of an actual change in our environment ... or, of our mood.

We naturally take pride in our accomplishments, and ascribe much of our success to the skills in judging we believe we have
developed.  But in teamwork, we also learn that judgments, while necessary at certain times, can all too easily sow dissension and
distrust.  For example, Jill’s judgment of another team member, Jack, incurs twin risks: the risk of Jack feeling misunderstood and/or
discounted and the risk of Jill’s thinking about all the situations of which she visualizes Jack a part being falsely coloured in her mind by
the particular hue of her judgment of Jack.  Equally, Jack’s judgment of Jill risks sowing and reaping the seeds of distrust and
resentment.  Of course the same is true of Jack's judgments of John, or Jill's of Jane.

Consider now a hypothetical judgment that Jack makes of Jill, and also one that Jill makes of Jack.  Suppose that Jack judges Jill “to be
emotional”, and that Jill judges Jack “to be insensitive”.  Are these reliable judgments?  Are either based on data?  Or are they only
inferences supportive of the judger's desire for a view of another to be simple, and accepted, perhaps by third parties, as true of the
other?  And most crucially, can Jack or Jill rise above any negative implications in the other's inferential views of him/her to treat such
observations as potentially helpful feedback, rather than as reliable statements, i.e. truth, or reasons for taking offence?

Questions such as these occur often in organizations.  As supervisors, leaders, and family members, we must solve problems as
members of teams that must be productive in a larger setting.  How can we refine the quality of evaluative skills we have honed to
solve problems so that, rather than sowing resentment and mistrust in our team, we arrive at working assumptions that facilitate co-
operation in the growth of true insight and productivity?  Before we discuss this question, let us first examine some opinions of
financial analysts concerning the effect of a strong culture, which everyone agrees facilitates rapid decision-making:
Reading Material Sample
Services to Leaders
Coaching Essay: Refining Judgments
Navigating the Seas of Judgment:
Damned if you judge, or damned if you don’t?

(c) 2007-16 by
Angus Cunningham
Principal, Authentix Coaches
Paper on Stimulating Curiosity
Root page of Corporate Services section
Root page of Coaching Services section
Our Engagement Values
Our Principal's Experience
Getting in contact with us
Authentix Coaches Home page
Source Data  - "Corporate Culture & Performance" © 1992 by Kotter & Heskett
Analysis       -
Authentix Coaches

The data in the chart above is drawn from research by management consultants Kotter & Heskett done in the 1980s and reported in
their classic 1992 book "
Corporate Culture & Performance".  It indicates that, in the opinion of professional financial analysts of that era,
a strong corporate culture was more often associated with high financial performance than with low.  The data also indicates that
there was substantial disagreement among the analysts as to the question of how strong a link there actually is between strong
corporate culture and high performance.

Part of the cause of the analysts' disagreement can be found by distinguishing accurately between a datum and a fact.  The
inevitability of death is a datum for, although all living creatures try to avoid dying, we would be insane if we did not in due course
accept that one day we will die.  Knowing a datum, such as the inevitability of death, can be useful in that we have some idea in mind
upon which we can 'count' (even if we don’t want to think much about a datum such as the inevitability of death! -- an anxiety we
often manage by avoiding estimating when it will occur).  For all existing intents and purposes in a person's mind a datum is simply
true.  We therefore are wise to tie our assumptions as much as possible to at least one datum, if not many data.  Reality, however, is
that not all assumptions turn out to be reliable.  So, when we discover an assumption not to be reliable, we have learned that it no
longer is a datum – even if once we believed it was.  In truth it was a presupposition (or in another's feeling perhaps a presumption),
and so now we must change all the assumptions or beliefs upon which we have been relying that sprang from our having once
believed a fact was a datum.  This takes time, sometimes a long time, and we often find ourselves avoiding doing this work.  But, in the
interim of completing the process of revising our assumptions and beliefs so that they accord with the data at hand, we are prone to
feeling out of balance and even upset.  And why not?  Our assumptions were unreliable and our thinking has indeed been upset.

Although a fact is not a datum, we often take a fact as if it were a datum.  A fact turns out often to be only an interpretation or an
inference or a construction that someone, perhaps you or I, draws from, or imposes on, raw data and presents as if it were a datum --
possibly in a conversation, a report, or an essay such as this one, or a newspaper article, a documentary, an editorial, or a speech, or
a web posting, an email, or an advertisement.  Hopefully, facts are presented for purposes of agreeing on 'firm ground' for collective
problem-solving or decision-making, but unfortunately this is by no means always the case.  The Bush-Blair presentation of the 'fact'
that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was presented as if it were a datum and many people cited Bush's State of
the Nation assertion thereon as if it actually were a datum.  But that 'fact' has since been found to have been false; and there has
ever since been sharp suspicion and intense controversy as to how that presentation came to be made.  From this widely reported
episode of high-level decision-making, we learn that a so-called fact is always an assumption -- even when the presenter or reporter of
it as a fact may be unaware, or want others to be unaware, that the 'fact' was only an assumption.  This only becomes crystally clear
to us when we have regained balance after having lost it through reliance upon an assumption that turned out to be upsettingly
untrue.  We begin thereafter to
make use, with determination, of the crucial distinction between a fact and a datum.

Theoretically, we all have choice in the facts we choose to assume for the purposes of practical problem-solving.  But let us be very
clear that we would not know this choice existed if we did not know the language distinction between a fact and a datum.  However
this might have been in the past for any particular one of us,
henceforth you and I do know this difference (but let's be ready to
forgive each other if we forget it even as we also must be willing to acknowledge as much!

In teamwork, a key moment arrives when an important assumption is to be agreed by the team, i.e. treated as if it were actually a
datum.  Ideally, the input of team members who have insight into the situation to be summarized by the assumption will be the ones
to whom the team will listen.  But what if personal judgments have been made by some of the team members of others?  Then there
will be mistrust and resentment clouding the team's interactions in reaching a reliable judgment concerning the assumption they must
make.  Moreover, in a high-performance team we have course directions to set, performance goals to negotiate, plans to devise to get
there, obstacles to be scaled or removed along the chosen way, urgent 'fires to put out', and, let us not forget, people to love at home
and in our community.  In other words efficiency in communications is valuable; and that means we do well to avoid letting inaccurate
or permanent judgments of self-or-other enter our communication, which in turn requires checking any inferences or judgments of
others that we have not checked against data.

Experience in
high-performance teams reveals to us that when we make the effort to free our judgments of the temptation to assume
a fact to be a datum, we make our communications significantly more efficient and reliable -- even if we, and perhaps others also, may
temporarily feel as if we are not making much progress.  This being so, how can we, when we need to, 'navigate safely yet purposefully
and efficiently the turbulent and treacherous seas of judgment' concerning the assumptions that are necessary to make in order to
make decisions?  Following are some suggestions:

  • First, we can consciously lessen judging, especially in the case of people (where judgments very often sow unnecessary
    dissension and frequently, but not always, inhibit the flow of energy in productive directions).  We can do this by (a) practising
    differentiation between facts and data, which requires that we develop our powers of focused curiosity (see Essay on Curiosity)
    and (b) remembering that haste makes waste.  Often, although not always, we will discover that no decision is urgent but an
    insightful one is valuable to all in due course.
  • Second, we can bring into the present the clarities that begin to emerge when we watch for, and let go of, the 'normal', i.e.
    conventional or usual, habits of speech and writing by which we so often presuppose, absent-mindedly, unverified facts to be
    reliable data.  A good way of gaining proficiency in this is to practice E-prime English, in which the articulator takes the trouble to
    eliminate instances of conjugations of the verb 'to be', because these very frequently overlook implicit presumptive judgments.
  • Third, we can set out to master, not just know about, the process of practical differentiation of datum from fact
  • Fourth, we can arrange for suitable venues (such as Skype?) in which the currents of emotion and mood upon which our own
    particular 'ship of mind is running' can become conscious -- a process that helps us become yet more aware of vital distinctions
    between datum and fact (see Essay "Time for a Gnosis?"); and
  • Fifth, we can -- once we have become truly proficient in the first four self-disciplines -- gently help others to gain in proficiency to
    'navigate the seas of judgment' too.

Henry Ford is famous for having said and also, I understand, having lived, the adage "Never complain, never explain".   Ford lived 3 or
4 generations ago.  So it may be relevant to ask today:
Are the ways of thinking about the world that were successful when that
dictum of Ford's was popular, which was contemporary with WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution and whose wisdom only
played itself out with the end of the Cold War, likely to be vitalizing today

Sooner or later, after we experience a larger portion of the world than the one we were accustomed to experience in our family of
origin, we discover that simplicity, desirable as it is, is almost not to be found except at the expense of judging almost everyone else's
thinking as too complex or in some way venal.

Simplicity is not the same as order.  There is order in this universe, as is evidenced by the existence of scientific laws concerning Nature
that we find usefully reliable in predicting and manipulating its inanimate elements for our survival or prosperity.  If we want to be able
to use scientific laws, we have first to learn what the ones accepted as true today are, appreciate their value and identify where they
are likely to be seriously misleading.  Then we can either apply the latest ones of which we are aware or refine them or propose/prove
new ones.

Likewise, there are patterns in the histories and narratives (and hopes and fears) of persons, families, organizations, and
communities, and we can find them if we study living beings without prejudice.  Then, when we have studied them and believe we
have seen a pattern that strikes us as worth noting, we must ask
this: "To what purpose can we put what we have found?"  Well,
how much of what we have learned (or observed) of the various patterns we have individually, as an outcome of our different life
experiences, studied and think we have verified are we obliged/wise to share with others?

In relation to that question, what if we do not distinguish carefully between our need for order or pattern, i.e. predictability, and our
desires for simplicity (freedom from mental burden or pressure of time)?  Well, in youth we make judgments, and as we age, we learn
to temper our judgments so that they do as little violence as possible to the capacities for self-development, including affiliation and
intellectual growth, of people, and yet are as precise as possible about things.  If we grow up being especially habituated to judging
others by virtue of the habits that our families, schools, employments, and professions entrained in us, then our task in learning to
minimize the negative effects of our judgments of both others and ourselves is commensurately greater.

Toronto, 071204-141027, excerpted from "Out from Under: A Practical Approach to Accurate Problem-Solving" (to be published in May?, 2016)
"The difficulty is to detach the framework of fact - of absolute undeniable fact -
from the embellishments of theorists and reporters."

           - 'Sherlock Holmes', Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's incomparable detective
"Are conclusions always interim inferences?"
So, ARE conclusions always interim inferences?

The philosopher's answer is Yes.  The conscientious
practitioner's answer is Maybe.  And the bigot's answer is No.