One of the things that I’ve become increasingly aware of in the past year is the influence of paradigms. A paradigm is window that we all have, but may not recognize. It is a deep-seeded belief that affects how we view the world.
Here’s an example that I have heard. Imagine you are sitting on a subway car when a father and his four children get on. It takes the kids about 45 seconds before they start misbehaving, getting on each other nerves, wrestling, and disturbing other passengers. Meanwhile, the father sits passively, almost detached.
Ok, so put yourself in that subway car. You probably feel a little annoyed. As it continues, you wonder if you should say something. Maybe you scold the children, or shoot a dirty glance at the father?
Well, it turns out that someone does ask the father if he could do something. The father reacts almost as if he’s awakening out of a dream. He apologizes, saying they all just came from the hospital. His wife had just lost a fight with cancer. He had been lost in thought. He speculates aloud that the kids probably don’t know exactly what to do with the feelings they’re experiencing.
OK, now put yourself in that subway car again. Still feel annoyed? Still planning on scolding the kids? What look are you giving the dad now?
Here’s the thing: the actual reality inside that subway car hasn’t changed. You still have a detached father, four misbehaving kids, and a crowded subway car. Only the background story changed. Before you were stuck in a moral drama about the decline of parenting in society. Now, you’re in the middle of a tragedy. And so your reality, both how you view this and how you react to that car, is totally different.
You see this all the time in journalism, whether it be blogging or the corporate media. For example, reactions to the drafting of Ben Revere by the Twins in the first round of the 2007 draft were all over the chart. Pretty much the sum total of what we knew about the guy was that he was fast and some draft experts had projected him to go in the 3rd or 4th round. And so we fit that into our paradigm and got differing vastly differing opinions.
Those that thought that the Twins weren’t spending enough money criticized the pick, convinced that Revere was chosen that high because the Twins wouldn’t need to pay him much. And, indeed, Revere signed for less guaranteed money than any first rounder since 1997. Plus, the Twins made moves later, such as releasing Jeff Cirillo and trading Ramon Ortiz and Luis Castillo, that suggest that finances really were a concern for the draft last year.
However, those that find the Twins were adept at finding diamonds in the rough praised the Twins for recognizing Revere’s skill and grabbing him early rather than risk him being gone by the 92nd pick. And in Revere’s first season, he had a monster introduction to the rookie leagues including hitting .325 with 10 triples (in just 191 at-bats). In fact Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the Twins #1 prospect, and the only five star prospect in the Twins system.
But on the other hand, there were also people who were frustrated with the Twins lack of power, and they criticized the pick because it smelled like another overhyped piranha. And, sure enough, Revere hit exactly zero home runs those 191 at-bats, and Baseball America warned that his ceiling will be limited unless he develops some power.
So which one do you pick? Well, all three sound pretty valid, but again, the reality of Ben Revere hasn’t really changed. Whichever one you pick doesn’t tell you that much about Revere, or even about the Twins. Mostly it tells us about you, and particularly what you believe about the Twins.
Hmm. It appears these windows work both ways.