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The Dangers of Generalization

August 22, 2012 in Philosophy

These days we are barraged by language and comments that sound important and informative yet are mostly meaningless. The idea I am talking about is generalization. A very useful tool in language which allows us to simplify what we are saying in order to shortcut the communication process.

Unfortunately this method of shortcutting doesn’t serve us so well when we apply it to ideas and concepts that truly need specific definition. A simple example is the idea of a mission statement, something common in business which is written in such vague and nebulous terms that it is nearly meaningless.

The trap of generality is when we imagine that we have set a real goal when we’ve only talked about it. In a business plan your generalities have to be specified at some point so that your plan truly gives direction.

An important consideration in breaking the general habit is to quantify what you are talking about. Instead of “generate more income” use increase sales to x dollars per day. This way you have a real goal and objective rather than just a vague goal.

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