The Fallacy of the Rising Tide:
- Something positive is happening.
- I am part of that something positive.
- Ergo, I caused that positive change.
John F. Kennedy famously used the phrase, "A rising tide lifts all boats," to suggest that a growing economy benefits everyone. It's a handy phrase that can be used in lots of situations, e.g., your boss just got promoted or they just built a Home Depot next to your sleepy hot dog stand. The fallacy comes when, instead of thanking external forces for benefiting you, you believe something internal caused this wonderful change.
For example, when I looked at my stocks this morning, I was pleased to see that everything was up. In fact, since I started investing in January, all of my stocks are above water. Should I pat myself on the back and congratulate myself for being an oracle? If I had done this, I'd be committing The Fallacy of the Rising Tide. It turns out that the entire market is up since the beginning of the year, so it's no surprise that my portfolio is looking good. Am I better than chance? Would throwing darts at a chart of Dow Components have yielded me a better return?
The fallacy runs rampant in the business world often takes the form: "Since I worked for/with [company x] and [company x] was wildly successful, therefore I am a brilliant businessperson." Now, it certainly may be possible that you were critical in hockey stick growth of your company, but it isn't necessary. Hence the fallacy.
I think I just coined a phrase! w00t!
Any great examples of The Fallacy of the Rising Tide? Leave them in the comments.