The Belgian surrealist painter Rene
Magritte is best known by most of us for a painting with the official title
“The Treachery of Images.” The painting is a representation of a tobacco pipe,
under which Magritte wrote “This is not a pipe” in French.
People didn’t like that much. They said, “Well, of course it’s a pipe, just
look.” Magritte responded: “could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a
representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture “This is a pipe,”
I’d have been lying!”
A picture of a pipe is not a pipe. And a report of an incident is not the
incident. It is a report.
You need to know who prepared the report. Do they have any biases that may be
in play? Pay attention to the adjectives. The fewer adjectives and the more
measurements, the more objective the report is likely to be. Knowing that is not
You need to take the advice of Jim Morgan from Team Trainers. “It’s not
enough to know your sources. You have to know their sources as well if you’re
going to prevent yourself from being misled.”
You need to remember that human memory is very fallible. The longer the time
lapse between the incident and the report, the less likely the report is to be
Boss’s Bottom Line
An incident report is not the incident. It’s your job to figure out what
actually happened and what it means.