The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Smoke & Mirrors – Don't Believe Everything You See!

Posted by kenhoward on June 29, 2007

Sometime reality sucks, or is uninteresting, or contradicts what we have always believed. That’s what makes magic shows work – we know that he didn’t really pull a dove out of thin air, but it’s fun to believe the unbelievable, if only for a few seconds.

We’re bombarded with illusions every day – images, thoughts, ideas that someone has conjured up to make us see something a certain way. Some call this marketing: The car salesman wants us to see the car with the shiny new car smell (that will disappear in a few weeks) and all the cool gadgets and gizmos (we could never afford); The real estate agent wants us to see a model home (without the laundry, clutter, & dirty dishes that were all shoved into cabinets and closets just moments before the prospective buyers arrived); The Red Lobster ad wants you to fantasize about the delicious looking platter of seafood (without the 30 minute drive to get there, the 1 hour wait when you get there, the crying baby at the next table, and the expensive bill.)

When you walk into many natural history museums, you’ll often find a room with a very tall ceiling which is home to a T-Rex standing tall and looking ferocious, and it’s long tail stretched across the floor. In reality, scientists discovered long ago that the T-Rex didn’t walk like that – The T-Rex walked down on all four legs with it’s tail sticking up in the air. That just wouldn’t have had the same consumer appeal as the frightening T-Rex standing tall and erect, so bones were assembled in unnatural ways to create the illusion the curators were going for.

As you experience your day today, be on the lookout for smoke and mirrors. Are you seeing reality, or an illusion that was created to serve someone else’s needs. Or if that seems too cynical or pessimistic, then just like the spectator at the magic act – sit back and enjoy the show.


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