The Word I Love to Hate…

So what is fair?

How may times as a kid did you go to your parent to whine that things weren’t  “fair” as little Bobby or Suzie Q  could do something which wasn’t permissible in “your”  parents view.  Here you were typically shooed away with a comment like “if Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you too”?  While  not sure about you, my answer however was “sure” as hey why not if he got too?  As my youthful rebellious attitudes shown through my lack of ability to logically debate.     Now as a parent and maybe even a grandparent, the same is coming back around as your own brood is turning these very concepts of “fairness” as a form of equality against you now.

So how is it that our friend Webster defines “fair”  with 11 potential options and even with some [sub] options of their own so it is “fair” to say that “fair” is a “fairly” broad meaning word yet for our discussion today let’s look at number 6 which in itself provides for three options:

a : marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism <a very fair person to do business with>

b (1) : conforming with the established rules : allowed (2) : consonant with merit or importance : due <a fair share>

c : open to legitimate pursuit, attack, or ridicule <fair game>

As with all three we can see an interrelationship forming around a triad of (1) Honesty (2) Conformance and (3) Openness when conceptually applied in balance, yields a form of zero sum results as each tugs on the other.   However should one of these [three attributes] become perceived differently or out of context from the others is when we find ourselves in trouble  as how do we rationalize the optics of the triad?

As if you look at the diagram you will see that “honesty” anchors the triad with “openness” being at arm’s length yet “conformance’ is the mathematical outlier as “conforming” always seems to be the hardest thing about being “fair”.    This is because to be “fair” we must have “rules” within which we measure ourselves and others among “each other” and for this to work we must be “open” to disclose our proximity to these “boundaries”.

When we cross or run the risk of breach of these “boundaries” in turn must adhere to a measure of “conformance” to bring things back into line. This is one of the reasons we can drive on roads and especially highways as the rules of “fairness” keep us in our safe zone in reference to our fellow drivers as an “honest” approach to “conformance” of the rules of the road, coupled with an “openness” of signaling intentions and actions to fellow drivers allows us the ability to operate within a larger whole in effective manner as you take one of these away and chaos will ensue.

For example take away “openness” and say we no longer signal our intents to fellow drivers, what will be the results?  Yes anywhere from loss of efficiency to outright havoc will ensue as “conformance” will be under mined as a result.

Oh, one other closing tip when approached by your child or anyone for that matter who wishes to challenge you on the word “fair”, simply explain to them it’s a place of rides and of farm animals and watch their blank stare…


About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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