Which is more important? Rearview mirrors or windshield?

January 25, 2010

A popular pair of PowerPoint slides used by business conference speakers first displays a distant car behind in the rearview mirror of an automobile followed by a second PowerPoint of the same auto’s windshield view with a big oncoming truck directly in your lane – beep-beep! I am conflicted with this not so veiled message. I passionately embrace the increasing emphasis on forecasting outcomes and its value to narrow the uncertainty of the future. But this implies knowing and understanding the past is of much less informational value. There is substantial value in both views – the past and the future.

I agree with the symbolism that the rear view mirror implies that events have already happened, so they are already behind you and can not be affected. But this message to only look forward is distorting. I personally like having rearview mirrors, and when driving I glance at them often. I want to see what types of vehicles are behind me and what rate they may be speeding up on me.

Why does understanding the past have importance too? There is much to be gained from analyzing trends and drawing inferences from the past. A trend starts back in time but it ends with last