Opinion: Asking the right question | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Opinion: Asking the right question

Devin Middlebrook
Tribune Opinion Columnist

Have you ever faced a tough decision and all you could think of were excuses to do nothing? It is something I have been guilty of in the past. Not to say these concerns were false, but what if the problem was not with the answer, but the question itself?

In statistics, type I and type II errors can occur when testing a hypothesis. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, a type I error is also known as a false positive (thinking two events are related when they are not) and a type II error is a false negative (thinking two events are not related when they actually are).

There is a third lesser-known error, called a type III. With this error, the answers you get are correct, but the question being asked is wrong. This is something I think our community is guilty of; we have been asking the wrong questions for far too long. If the questions we keep asking never change, our answers will never change, and we are bound to repeat history. This is why reading the daily news and opinion pages can feel like déjà vu.

We need to start asking the hard questions, real questions, questions grounded in reality. Question why the per capita income in South Lake Tahoe is $23,000 per year (comparable to Bakersfield, California) and the ratio of median income to median home price is higher than in San Francisco. Question why job seekers complain of a lack of well-paying jobs, yet employers feel there is a lack of talented employees to hire.

Organizations and leaders in town are beginning to shift the paradigm toward asking these questions. Tahoe Prosperity Center is asking what we can do to strengthen Tahoe’s communities. The Tahoe Chamber is asking how we can create a workforce that supports innovative local businesses. Businesses like Tahoe Mountain Lab and Elevate Blue are asking how technology and entrepreneurs can help diversify our economy.

Once we start asking these types of questions, we can finally get the right answers. It is up to every member of this community to own their answer, but more importantly pay attention to the question being asked and by whom. When talking about the place I call home, my answers will never be to questions that came from the past. My answers will always be to the questions asked by the Tahoe I want to see become reality.

If the questions you ask seek to find excuses, the answers you get will also be excuses. Excuses to stop moving forward, not change with the times, and not evolve as a community. Not doing something comes with consequences, too. Why not take a risk and try something new? Stop thinking in terms of “should we?” and start thinking in terms of “what happens if we don’t?”

Devin Middlebrook is the civic engagement committee chair for the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals. For comments, questions, or more information on how to get involved please email Devin at dcmiddlebrook@gmail.com or visit http://www.tahoetryp.org

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