Conventional Wisdom was Not Wise

by | Oct 18, 2022 | ICT4D, Learning, Strategy |

conventional wisdom

Sometimes conventional wisdom turns out not to be wise. Many of us follow the instructions on the packaging or a recipe when baking bread or a cake. When we buy a plant we read the label to understand if it needs light or shade and how much water. Here in the UK you can buy squash, which is a concentrated juice, which needs diluting with water according to a particular ratio.

And then there are people like my parents. Mom would always cut the amount of sugar by at least 50% in everything she baked (I now do this too!). Dad insisted that every year one field ‘rested’ as it was good for the soil.

Conventional wisdom in agriculture is to monocrop and apply large amounts of fertiliser to fields so plants grow fast and strong (and your yileds increase). The amounts of fertiliser is often recommended by the fertiliser manufacuturer. However, over time what we see is soil turning to dust as it has no life left in it. And conventional wisdom tells us to apply more and more fertiliser, which only compounds the problem.

Turns out, conventional wisdom was not wise.

Conventional wisdom in organisations still tends to be to collect as much data about your customers or audience as you can. More is better. And the more personal it is, the better. This data can then be used to mine insights for product or service development, but also for selling these products and services back to the people. And you can use these datasets to generate income by selling them to others. Data is power. Therefore, more data is more power.

Except the bigger your data store, the bigger a target you are for hackers. The bigger your data store, the bigger the data leaks are. Therefore, the more security you need. And so the cycle goes and soon that extra income you had disappears.

Turns out, conventional wisdom was not wise.

Perhaps it’s time we learn to question conventional wisdom. Take the long view. Wisdom tends to be wisdom because it endures. Centuries. Not months, years, or even decades. But centuries. Multiple centuries.

It’s hard to imagine someone 300 years from now thinking that the conventional wisdom of today’s data practices were wise.

Photo by Charl Folscher


  1. Mke

    The problem that I foresee with canadas plan to reduced nitrogen use is this. Dutch and Canadian farmers are some of the most efficient in the world when it come to their fertilizer use.
    30% reduction is fertilizer means less food

    • AmosD

      Less fertiliser does not need to result in less food, there are thousands of farmers globally who are getting the same yields with different appraoches and methods. It is all about the approach and mindset.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *