Time and Chance Doesn’t Happen to Us All


Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. – Ecclesiastes 9:11

According to the bible, we are all subject to the randomness of life and the effects of time, regardless of our status, knowledge or skill. There are many days when that doesn’t seem true at all.

For those working in creative fields or knowledge working environments, time is something that is a critical ingredient for influencing the products that emerge from those settings. Time is needed to find information, process it, and make sense of it, particularly if that information is of a complex nature.

In the health sector, evidence-based decision-making is considered the gold standard. It stands to reason that using the best knowledge accumulated from what we’ve already done is a good idea when people’s health is at the centre of attention. But how often do we actually have the time to do actually get evidence, process it, and sense-make around it to apply it in a reasonable way? My informal read on my colleagues in the research and clinical practice fields is that the answer: none. Go to any meeting and nearly all the participants are at some point checking their Blackberry or iPhone in the meeting itself, or right before or immediately after. These are the times when we used to talk to each other, ask questions about each other, and build social relationships.

Now, its addressing the mountain of email that seems to be growing.

Chance, those opportunities to take advantage of spontaneous emergence of information, is also lost. By being so focused on the information coming in through mobile devices, or in one’s own memory, we lose opportunities for the sense-making that enables us to discover new things.

So we have this remarkable paradox where the demands for more, better, appropriate, timely knowledge is greater than ever on problems that are becoming ever-more complex with more tools to generate and sort this information, and no time to actually use it effectively.

In my health behaviour change course we look at literature on changing all kinds of behaviour from eating, physical fitness, smoking, sexual health promotion, and beyond, but not time. Perhaps it is time for that to change, for if that element changes, the chance that it will lead to improved health and innovation might increase along with it.

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