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Critical Thinking series: The Genetic Fallacy

Remy from Disney Pixar's Ratatouille

Can a great chef really come from anywhere?

In every competitive marketplace, one of the most reliable ways to differentiate and get ahead of the competition is by innovating—coming out with new products or services that stand out from competitive offerings and truly benefit customers in real and unique ways. Successful innovations have saved dying companies and created new market dominators, completely up-ending existing market dynamics. A few years before launching the iPod, Apple was weeks away from declaring bankruptcy. Before the digital camera became ubiquitous, Kodak controlled two-thirds of the film market and was one of the largest companies in the world.

The potential value of innovative ideas means that they are highly sought after, but elusive to find. Where did ideas like the iPod and digital camera come from? How can we learn to identify them and appreciate their potential?

As organizations look for the next big breakthrough that is going to vault them to the top of their marketplace, one of the tendencies that we see is a concept known as the Genetic fallacy: Judging something good or bad based on where it comes from, or from whom it comes.

The Genetic fallacy was illustrated very eloquently in Disney Pixar’s 2007 film Ratatouille, about a rat named Remy who comes from very humble origins to be a world-class chef in Paris. For the characters who recognize Remy’s talent, they must overcome their biases around what a chef should be before they can accept his contributions to fine cooking. Focusing on the fact that Remy was not a trained chef (or even a human) left some characters unable to accept the genius of his culinary creations.

Many of us can relate to the Genetic fallacy in practice. Have you ever seen someone try a food that they’d never tried before and exclaim “I like this! What’s in it?” only to find out that one of the ingredients is a food that they thought they hated? Have you ever been in a meeting where a junior employee’s idea was cast aside in favor of a project championed by a more senior member of the organization? What about hearing someone who is an expert in a certain discipline declare “That will never work because...” and go on to critique and deflate a potentially exciting new idea?

One of the best ways to help your organization overcome the Genetic fallacy is by working with an independent market research firm like Advantage Research. Since we are outside of your organization, we are not as susceptible to the influences of who or where an idea came from and thus are better able to test the idea on its merits. We are also experienced with a variety of scientific approaches that enable the evaluation of ideas in a controlled and unbiased fashion. Using our “outsider” position and our research expertise, we give our clients actionable feedback on ideas that would have been much more difficult for them to uncover on their own.

If you need help with research that sees through Genetic fallacies for your organization, Advantage Research can recommend an approach that is right for you. Contact us today to start the conversation!

These explorations are inspired by School of Thought's Critical Thinking card decks - check out their website for more information.


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