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“All Generalizations Are Wrong…..” Be Aware Of Expert Advice

by David Brock on October 7th, 2017

1000’s of blogs from real and self-proclaimed experts appear every day.  Each asserts they have “the answers.”

Often, these answers are based on deep experience from the writer.  We can learn a lot in reading those.

We are hungry for answers.  Each of us faces challenges that are real and very difficult.  We are anxious to find answers, often leaping to “magic solutions” based on the experience of some pundit.

But there are no silver bullets.

These solutions are based on specific experiences these experts have had, but have been generalized to address and attract interest from a broad audience.

But each of our circumstances and situations are different.  While we can learn from generalized solutions or points of view, the really tough work is evaluating, combining multiple approaches, and adapting a solution to our specific circumstances.

As we look for solutions, it’s important not to blindly follow generalized advice or “guaranteed quick fixes.”  It’s important to think critically about what works and what won’t work for us.

That’s the heavy lifting each of us must constantly do in learning, executing, growing, and achieving.  If we aren’t committed to that heavy lifting, then we are committed to a life of following “bright shiny objects,” but will be unlikely to achieve our goals over the long term.

Read avidly, read widely, be skeptical, assess what works, what doesn’t work for your specific circumstances.  Develop the solution that works for you and your organization, don’t try to copy someone else’s generalized experience.

Above all, remember:

“All generalizations are false—-including this one”  Mark Twain



  1. Great points David. No silver bullets indeed. I’ve seen many instances of companies that put their critical thinking skills on hold and paid a serious price. At times the expert is providing advice based on statistics that turned out to be false or not applicable to their client’s specific industry.

    • It always hurts to hear organizations minimizing the importance of critical thinking. The price they are paying for this is huge—both in direct expense, reputation/brand, and lost opportunity. Thanks for the great comment Christopher.

  2. I always find it fascinating that so many business owners and key executives are looking for “quick fixes” for what they often view as an easily solvable problem, but in actuality are usually highly interrelated and complex issues. As Christopher noted, there are no silver bullets! Dave – what’s your take on the trend of owner/operators not wanting to commit to well planned longer-term strategies?

    • John, sorry for the slow reply. I think, unfortunately, it’s human nature to look to short cuts, quick fixes, and miracle cures, even though we know they don’t work. I’m constantly amazed at the time and money spent pursuing these, where if someone just committed to doing the work, they would achieve their goals more quickly and with less money. Many have gone before me in pointing this out, many will come after me pointing this out—-sigh………

      • Absolutely agree. But it’s nearly dumbfounding that executives working to identify solutions for long simmering business issues would think that solutions of merit are either easy or quick; they are neither. This is especially troubling when you consider the fact (well, I think it’s a fact) that these same executives either unknowingly contributed to the cause of the problem, and/or have been trying to work a solution using only internal resources. They should, at this point, realize that viable solution alternatives will take some time to develop, test and implement. It’s kind of like “garbage in, garbage out”, so if your rush the process you’re left with something that will be suboptimal. Anyway, I suppose that it’s exactly these folks that keep us strategic thinkers busy with new opportunities! As always, I enjoy your blog and commentary.

        • Thanks so much for the comment John. I do tend to think too many managers and people tend to look more for the “easy button,” silver bullet, or wishful thinking approaches. These issues are tough issues and we have to do the work to produce the results/changes we need. There are no shortcuts.

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