The Line Between Visionary and Delusional

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

by Kent Aitken RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Kent Aitkentwitter / kentdaitkengovloop / KentAitken

Where's the line between "Visionary" and "Delusional"?

This is a question Richard Pietro, a cofounder of Citizenbridge*, posed over Twitter last month.

Let's imagine that you, reader, are cooking up an idea, and you're wondering whether it's brilliant or stupid. Amazing, or impossible. (Notwithstanding the actual link between genius and madness**.)

But how accurate is your perception of the size of the realm of possibility? I'm sure you can think of examples where your view of the world missed the mark of reality. I certainly can. And the psychology and behavioural economics literature is rife with examples of it.

So here's the question: knowing that we most definitely have a margin of error, what is the impact if you're overestimating the breadth of "possible"?

If you're underestimating?

*Citizenbridge is a not-for-profit that takes government data and remixes it on a platform suited for discussion and debate, with the goal of increasing the level of dialogue between elected officials and the citizens they represent.

**Heck, where to start? One large analysis found "an 87 percent rate of psychiatric disorders in eminent poets and a 77 percent rates in eminent fiction writers." Far in excess of other fields. Or, a study of 70,000 Swedish teens found that those that scored highest on intelligence tests were the most likely to later develop bipolar disorder. Or, Salvador Dali: "There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad."