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The Problem with Conventional Wisdom: It’s Often Wrong

A collection of conventional wisdom

Many years ago, millions of people believed the world was flat. They also believed the Earth was the center of the universe. Both beliefs seemed so intuitive, so obvious…how could things possibly be otherwise? But as we all now know, they weren’t wrong but far from the mark. Simply because everyone believed these things to be true didn’t change the fact they weren’t. In fact, it was this widespread acceptance of these notions, also referred to as conventional wisdom, that was the problem. But as later appreciated, conventional wisdom is often wrong, which is why challenging conventional wisdom is essential.

(Do you embrace bold ideas or shoot them down? Join in the discussion in this Notes From Ed about a Super Bowl commercial!)

By definition, conventional wisdom reflects commonly held beliefs by the majority that often go unquestioned. Grounded in common sense and what seems readily apparent, these ideas undermine our capacity to use critical thinking. Challenging conventional wisdom seems like a waste of our time, because everyone believes its beliefs to be true. But repeatedly, history as well as modern times prove these assumptions to be false. Whether it’s about the Earth’s shape or the reality of a future Metaverse, conventional wisdom is often wrong. And it’s important that we understand the barriers it imposes in our efforts to excel.

“Conventional wisdom is no wisdom at all. Conventional wisdom is taking somebody else’s word for the way things are. It’s the followers of this world who rely on assumption. Not the leaders.” – Richard Marcinko U.S. Navy SEAL commander and Vietnam War veteran

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Conventional Wisdom

Despite the fact that conventional wisdom is often wrong, it does serve an important purpose. These types of beliefs rely on mass consensus as a means to validate their truthfulness. In many cases, this approach works well, and conventional wisdom lets us make some quick assumptions. This can naturally speed up our decision-making since we don’t have to spend any time on challenging conventional wisdom stances. As long as the majority is right, we can rely on conventional wisdom to make good choices. But unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Because conventional wisdom is often wrong, it’s essential we explore its accuracy. Consensus beliefs are often byproducts of groupthink where everyone migrates toward a common idea. The more people who support a belief, the more difficult it becomes to consider alternatives. This is why challenging conventional wisdom is so hard. Inherent biases become increasingly entrenched in notions that are assumed to be accurate. And this leads to a fixed mindset, reduced creativity, and a resistance to change. All of this undermines innovation and new ideas, and it keeps us away from the road less traveled. In fact, many have missed out on some of life’s greatest opportunities simply because they refused to question conventional wisdom.

“Bitcoins are not a real investment; they are bets inside a casino. People who are desperate to keep the game going rush back in, hoping to bring the price back up, but it never lasts.” – Kurt Eichenwald, American journalist and a New York Times bestselling author

Conventional Wisdom in Modern Times

Understanding that conventional wisdom is often wrong throughout the course of history, it’s worth exploring modern beliefs as well. As in the past, many shy away from challenging conventional wisdom. This routinely results in an inability to appreciate new opportunities regardless of their merit. One example of this involves cryptocurrency and digital coin. Because conventional wisdom suggests Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t tangible currencies, they assume they’re simply fads. This encourages them to see other related issues, like energy inefficiencies of blockchain, as supportive of their position. While these issues are important, exploring each in greater depth is essential in an effort to make the best choices.

(Yeah, high energy consumption is a big problem in digital ventures like blockchain and cryptocurrency mining. Read about it in this Bold story.)

Of course, the future of cryptocurrency isn’t the only thing that conventional wisdom questions today. The popularity of NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, has also been something that is challenging conventional wisdom. These digital assets are also supported by blockchain, which awards them a degree of authenticity. But many believe these digital assets are over-valued and over-rated. Conventional wisdom suggests that supply, which could be in abundance, fails to support current demand prices. But knowing conventional wisdom is often wrong, it’s worth digging a little deeper into the NFT market. Failing to do so might result in a major lost opportunity.

Perhaps, the most difficult thing to accept when it comes to conventional wisdom involves the Metaverse. Despite the fact that Facebook (now Meta) is all in on the idea, many see this is simply unfathomable. Virtual realities may work well for video games, but extending retail, social interactions, and marketplaces into this realm raises doubts. Challenging conventional wisdom that finds the virtual inferior to reality, a metaverse seems implausible. But we know that conventional wisdom is often wrong. It may just be that Facebook and others are onto something destined to be a game changer. Ridding ourselves of a fixed mindset so we can explore these possibilities is critical for us to adapt and evolve.

“‘NFT’ used to be a term only familiar to a small group of users. We’ve already seen the metaverse concept and NFT sector being validated by large traditional tech companies, I think it’ll slowly grow to become part of everyone’s daily life.” – Eric Chen, CEO and Co-Founder of Injective Labs

Due Diligence Is the Answer

In many instances, conventional wisdom offers accurate perceptions and insights. But conventional wisdom is often wrong, and therefore, true wisdom demands broader considerations. Challenging conventional wisdom by asking “what ifs” and “whys” should be the first step. Likewise, exploring the facts and assumptions in greater detail is also important. By performing our due diligence, whether it’s about NFTs or the Metaverse, we enable ourselves to make better decisions. If these prove conventional wisdom correct, then we can proceed rest assured. But if not, it might just be we’re allowing biases and fixed mindset to rule the day. And this is not a good recipe for long-term success in a world that’s constantly changing.


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