Tackling Persistent Myths

Our minds create associations very quickly. Great communicators, especially marketers, exploit this to anchor or promote an idea that may or may not be true.

So, beer and car commercials make heavy use of culturally attractive females to help male viewers link “hot” women with cold drinks or costly cars. The sequence in these promotions goes like this: if you buy this beer or car, then you will attract more, better women.

Common Pairs

In our workplace and communities other myths are in play. They can be obstacles for progress. Sometimes it is a matter of intentional marketing and other times it is the big leap to a faulty conclusion. I’ve listed several common myth combinations here:

Access   = Use

Spoken   = Understood

Information = Answers

Busy = Results

Taught = Learned

Bigger = Better

Articulate = Capable

Logical = Practical

Proven = Strategic 

Untangling Myths

Are any of these myths evident in your workplace?

In the list of above, the first and last pairs are ones we hear frequently. However, access use and proven strategic. For example:

When you purchase an office suite of software you get a bundle of programs – many that are never (or rarely) used. At the new year start, when we resolve to get “fit,” we join a gym. But this doesn’t guarantee participation in classes and use of the pool or equipment. In both cases, after access, there are many steps that must happen before use occurs. There is a mental leap from access to use.

Consider the “proven equals strategic” myth. We know a second language is a good idea for children. In fact, second language acquisition is proven to have influence in other cognitive achievements.  However, it may not be the most strategic choice in the context of child well being. Perhaps immunizations, nutritional support or preschool are inaccessible, more valuable and thus more strategic. The point: anything effective isn’t always the best action.

 Obstacles and Progress

Intentionally and unintentionally we pair up concepts that seem to be useful – but are not necessarily true. It’s vital we’re on guard for these pairings. They need to be challenged for validity. Unless your organization (or town) is perfect – myths exist.  Myths can be part of culture which props up the status quo. They can also generate limiting beliefs that get in the way of results.

Dig  a little deeper when you hear (or think) simple, glib associations. To create change we all need to be myth-busters.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

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