Avoiding Tunnelvision

Well, as it turns out, attending the annual INAIR(Indiana Association of Institutional Research) conference didn’t afford me quite as much time and energy to write as I had hoped. It’s amazing just how numb your mind gets after you’ve sat through multiple sessions, however interesting you may have found the material. But now that the conference is over and I’m feeling a bit refreshed, let me share a few of the thoughts and impressions I’ve gained from the past couple of days.

Our keynote speaker was “Dr. Blaise Cronin”:http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/spotlight/index.php?facid=6 of Indiana University – Bloomington. One area of his expertise involves strategic intelligence, and he spoke a bit on terrorism and terrorists. He described one of the major problems with facing terrorism in our country – the terrorists come from a culture where they are forced to examine their place in the world. They have some understanding of where they stand, of what the whole picture is, of what they have to do to effect the kinds of changes they want to see.

Conversely, the agencies and institutions in this country that are endeavoring to countermand these terrorist cells are isolated groups with closed communication systems. These agencies do not share intelligence with one another well and do not have experts who are adequately equipped with the proper knowledge and skill sets necessary to address the threat of terrorists. For instance, there is a wealth of wiretap information archived in the CIA(Central Intelligence Agency) that is virtually useless because we do not have enough analysts who know the Arabic language to listen to it and draw out the information we need to short-circuit terrorist plots. In effect, our intelligence agencies have a bad case of tunnelvision because there is less than ideal dialogue and discussion. They are, to some extent, unable to see alternatives that would suggest better ways of heading off threats to our national security.

He related this information to my field by warning against falling into the same traps. In order for institutions of higher learning to be truly effective, we must all share knowledge amongst each other. In doing so we boost our collective knowledge, we refine our skills, and we pose the prospect of alternative forms of action that have yet to be considered. This is the sort of cooperation that allows any business or institution to grow and become even more effective.

Allow me to apply this even further. This is the very reason why I enjoy writing down and sharing my thoughts here. I look for open dialogue and discussion with other, the sharing of ideas and viewpoints, exactly because I do not want to fall into the trap of tunnelvision. Dr. Cronin stated that statistics have shown that the guesses of average citizens are just as accurate as the guesses of experts, in any topic or issue. This is because experts fail to recognize that they have learned their area so thoroughly that they neglect to consider all the alternatives. They begin to think that events can only transpire in a limited number of ways. Sometimes, this is the case, but often it is not.

In sharing my thoughts with others in this medium, I am able to compare what I know with a limitless supply of other viewpoints. I can break out of that trap of tunnelvision by making myself vulnerable to critique and criticism. I am able to be coaxed into considering other alternatives to any number of issues that I face on a regular basis. In short I am reminded that I am not an expert in anything and that there are so many alternative ways that situations and issues can play out.

I appreciate all the feedback I get from my readers, and I greatly enjoy the discussion and stretching experiences. For all of you who read, I hope I am able to stretch the way you think a little bit. And for all of you who stretch me, thank you.

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