Poll findings: Lake Wobegon Effect?

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Has everyone seen the results of the ZDNN/Harris poll re Y2K (http://www.zdnet.com/zdy2k/1998/10/4887.html)? I was not really comforted by the poll's finding that the majority of respondents felt that their own companies were in good shape, but that they were "worried about the other companies." Why? Because of the Lake Wobegon Effect.

This term was popularized by Harry Beckwith in his recent business best-seller, "Selling the Invisible", and describes the "illusion of superiority", a documented phenomenon which causes individuals and companies to believe that they are smarter, more talented, and generally "better" than they actually are. Those of you who've read this useful book or who are familar with Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" will understand the term. For the rest (deprived folk that you are... 8-}]), it refers to Keillor's signoff from Lake Wobegon, "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

I have a sense that this "Effect" may have influenced some of the poll responses about organizational progress. "We're doing just great - it's the other guys that we're worried about." Comments?

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), October 09, 1998


That makes sense. No offense, but it even happens here in this forum. "I and my family will be prepared. It's the rest of society I'm worried about." I'm guilty of it myself sometimes.

-- Buddy Y. (DC) (buddy@bellatlantic.net), October 09, 1998.

A little healthy skeptism doesn't hurt, in these matters.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), October 09, 1998.


This is very common with regard to Y2K. The banks claim they're OK, but worry about the power companies and telcos. The power companies say they're OK, but worry about the telcos. The telcos say they're OK but worry about the power companies. Maybe everything will be OK!

Obviously, no one wants to say that THEIR company may have troubles. After all, that would be disloyal (and risky, to boot.) Off the record, I might give you the truth about my company, but if a customer asked, I'd dodge the question. I'm not a liar, I just don't want to risk my job for making a guarantee any intelligent person knows is impossible to give.

-- Mike (gartner@execpc.com), October 09, 1998.

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