Sightlines

Havlicek steals the ball — Fisk clangs it off the light tower — Espo scores on the rebound. These were magical moments for a local kid just discovering Boston sports. Perhaps even more magical, and I knew it then, were the places where they happened — Fenway Park and the Boston Garden in this case, but also in similar stadiums and arenas across the country. We have a visceral connection with these historic places. They were / are the very best places to see our games. We know their sights, sounds; the smell of the popcorn. They talk to us; they take us back, and they are all a collection of notoriously ‘bad’ seats.

What is a bad seat? There are many attributes that factor into this determination; comfort, proximity to concessions and exits, protection from the elements etc. But in the end it all boils down to sightlines — what and how well can you see from a given vantage point. In our beloved ‘venues’ it is quite often a matter of whether your seat actually faces the game you’re paying to see, or what portion of the action is actually in your field of view. There are still many places today where one can purchase a ticket to sit with their knees straddling a steel post.

While most of us can agree on where we don’t want to sit, there is far less agreement on where we do. ‘Good’ seats are those where we can see what we want to see. They may be close to the bench, close to the home goal, high in the corner where you can see the plays develop or first row behind home plate where you can only see the hitters. We will pay a premium to see what we want to see, regardless of all we are missing.

While it’s yet another sports analogy, a simple idea like sightline bias reminds us that business is often more about perception than omniscient logic. As individuals or as organizations, we act based on what we think we want, or on what we think another individual or business wants. In the building sustainability sector, purveyors often shape their deliverables based on the belief that the greater good is more valuable than the funds required to achieve it. Conversely, investment managers view the greater good in terms of tangible and intangible portfolio returns. At some level I suppose they’re both right. Perhaps a broader view would move us all closer to sustainability’s true value, both now and down the road.

It’s impossible to see everything, even from a corporate suite or on television. So the next best thing we can do is to move around a bit; try another seat next game. Did Manny really just do that?!

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