A Person Is Not a Proxy

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 10-23-23

I witness this breakdown in critical thinking far too frequently. Just because a person or an organization is highly respected and capable, does not mean that we should judge all of their decisions, actions, and opinions based on that respect. We should be skeptical. We should challenge. After all, Aristotle is one of the people whose work on the solar system helped lock in incorrect views that some people were killed just for challenging, until Keppler helped us see better. Imagine if still today we were all to say “Well, who are you to disagree with Aristotle?”

This happens in the lean community with Toyota. Toyota isn’t automatically good. They do a lot of things you shouldn’t copy. “Toyota does it” is not a reason. Many of the things they do because they are large, they are Japanese, or because they simply are an automotive company. That does not mean it applies to you. And their lean journey is their journey. They started in a different place and headed in a different direction with different constraints. Just because they ended up with certain practices doesn’t mean that you should as well. You should learn from them. You should understand why they do what they do. And then apply that knowledge to your own practices and problems. 

This is also done with individuals.“Elon Musk tweeted it”, “Jeff Bezos did it”, or “Ben Franklin wrote it” is not a reason to believe anything. 

In the same way, every single famous and respected person, and organization, has flaws. And we shouldn’t throw away what we can learn from them, honor them, or respect them because of their flaws. If we do, we are hurting our ability to learn. And when it is all said and done, our own learning and decisions are what drive our success, our fulfillment, and our self-respect.