Maybe I was just a confused child. I took two separate ideas and made meaning. One of my favorite movies was the Wizard of Oz (my fascination with the flying monkeys is gothic tale on its own). But there was a particular scene in the movie where Dorothy comes upon a field of beautiful red poppies. She enthusiastically runs into the poppies and then becomes very, very, very tired, and then falls asleep. The poppy field was enchanted and the narcotic smell induced people into a deep slumber from which they never awake. So it wasn’t necessarily a leap for me when I saw poppies worn and sold in commemoration of Veterans’ Day to think that the poppies were for all the soldiers, since they are eternally asleep.
In reality the poppies are used because of a mass grave of soldiers in 1914. After the soldiers were interred, poppies appeared. The flowers were not indigenous to the region, and thus the poppies became a symbol remembrance.
I still felt the need to research to ensure there was no Wizard of Oz connection. Since the Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, my wild imaginative thought that L. Frank Baum was making an additional commentary on the perils of war as an obstacle to going home were unfounded.
The business lesson this week? Ask the questions. Assumptions aren’t all that great. There is an issues-based approach in which the issues are outlined along with what appears to be the probable cause. The causes become the hypothesis to be either proved or disproved. Make sure you stick to the facts of issue and cause, and distance your emotions (right/wrong, good/bad, your fault/my fault) since those can cloud assessment and resolution.
I lead a study on virtual workplaces. One of the hypotheses was that people who work virtually are promoted less often. Even when the facts showed the opposite was true, a team member continued to argue that virtual workers were promoted less often. All of the data, by geography, age, time period, job role all showed conclusively that people who worked virtually were promoted more frequently and in a shorter time frame than those working in an actual office. For this team member, her hypothesis had morphed into a belief.
When the movie Saving Private Ryan came out, I was involved, though tenuously, in an incredible conversation. Someone said that if everyone saw Saving Private Ryan, there would be no more war. Her argument was that there was a whole generation that had not seen war. Then someone at the table mentioned Viet Nam. So the statement was revised — if only people understood the horrors of war. Again someone pointed out the televised accounts of Viet Nam and the subsequent realistic movie and TV portrayals. I’m not sure how that conversation ended, but it reminded me that when there is a strongly held belief, the presence of fact sometimes has little relevance.
This Veteran’s Day, I’ll remember. Regardless of facts, there will be war until there is a strongly held belief for Peace.