In the absence of insufficient knowledge, we build simplistic and incomplete models of the world around us. And over time these become immutable truths.

Society has role-specialised to the point where we have successfully outsourced our knowledge creation to scientists. While the rest of us hold comfortably to our simple beliefs.

Here are some I have encountered recently:

These may be “common” sense but they are certainly not universally applicable in any way. There are plants that prefer indirect sunlight. I have killed plants with nitrogen-based fertilisers. The overuse of disinfectant soap is contributing to the rise of previously rare infections likes golden staph; because when the soap kills off the majority of less resilient germs, it is actually making room for the resilient and dangerous varieties to grow. And of course it is well known that the widespread prescription of antibiotics at every tiny sniffle has contributed directly to the loss of efficacy across the spectrum as more and more germs evolve immunity to them.

People, however, don't generally like their models of the world challenged. They know best. We seem to have a built-in resistance to new ideas and concepts; especially those that challenge us to think and reconsider an established position. We believe in what we already know, and that’s it.

Possible/likely reasons:

Whilst this belief in simplistic models may appear harmless on an individual level, collectively it could lead to undesirable and uninformed decisions. Face with increasing change, we can ill afford to not only not see the complete picture, but be unwilling to find out!

One of the essential steps in any design or innovation project must be to examine the accepted wisdom and beliefs around the challenge and constraints at hand. This is when a perceptive outsider, especially a non-subject matter expert, can be really useful. In explaining the situation to a non-expert, we can often uncover hitherto invisible mistaken beliefs. Sometimes the problem may not be a problem!