Team Elements – Truth: Perspective and Memory

by Ron Potter

We’ve been introducing and preparing ourselves to walk through the elements that make great teams. The first of these is Truth. Great teams can tell each other the truth. But truth needs some special understanding.


How well do you remember that event? Is it seared into your memory? If so, brain science tells us that it’s very likely wrong. The more intensely we remember something, the more the memory has been modified by our brain to align with our beliefs and assumptions and therefore the “surer” we are of its accuracy.

The day after the shuttle Challenger blew up, a professor in Florida asked his class to write down everything they remembered about the moment and following hours of the Challenger explosion. The accident had happened only 24 hours before the class. The professor gave them some guidelines to write about:

  • What were their emotions at the moment they saw or heard about the explosion?
  • Who were they with? How did the other people react?
  • Where were they at the moment of the explosion and for the rest of the evening?
  • How did their emotions shift over that time? What was the focus of the conversations they had with others?

The students spent a couple of hours of class writing about these questions and other thoughts.

A few years later, the professor tracked down as many members of that class that he could find. In each case, they were handed their hand-written papers and asked how it fit with the memory they have of the explosion.

In all of the cases, their memories were different from what they had written that day. In some cases, the students rejected what they had written and told the “truth” about what happened that day. Their memories had been modified over time and solidified about the “story” they would tell of the events they “had experienced” on that fatal day.

Because computer hard drives and “memories” have been around for over four decades now, we have this belief that just like computer hard drives, we put things in our memory and then when we retrieve them, they are exactly what was put into our memory the moment the memory was created. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our memory is modified from the moment it is created by events and experiences along the way. We are constantly modifying our memory.


Perspective changes everything, even the things we’re observing at the moment. Again, brain science has shed a great deal of light on how we observe the world around us and “remember” events.

I’ve written other blogs on this topic, but the essence of the matter is that we assume what we are observing is the “truth” while everyone who has a different conclusion is simply expressing their “perspective.”

Science tells us the once an image enters our eye, the image itself is broken into at least 127 million bits of information and run through several processing centers of our brain. These centers include (but are not limited to) values, emotions, goals, ideas, memories, stress, pain, experiences, etc.

It’s easy to understand that each of us has different values, emotions, goals, ideas, memories, stress, pain, experiences. It should then be easy to understand the each of us will have a different view of what the “truth” is, based on what we just observed.

Realize that your perspective may be one of many. Each perspective is valid based on the persons processing centers.


Being part of a team means that we respect each other’s perspective of a given situation and work hard at reaching a collective perspective that will help us move forward and stay united and committed to an action plan.

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