Beware the truth (evidence-based management)


Lately I have been observing a lot of cognitive dissonance. Okay, rather a strange way to start a post, let me rephrase: “people hear only what they want to hear”. Now it’s better.

Not really an universal truth, but true of those who don’t have an ordered mind. We all tend to interpret the bits of information that conflict with our view of the reality as “clutter” and those who fit with “truth”. Because otherwise we would be wrong somehow, and we would have to rethink, and that would entail consuming a lot of energy (up to 25% of your energy consumption assuming you, reader, are human), and our brain wants to preserve energy, right? Then our brain has a lot of interest in not changing what it already perceives as truth.

And specially for those in charge. How can they accept that they make mistakes? How can they see that they are not as good as they believe themselves to be? How can they understand in an environment which will adulate them no matter what that they are imperfect? They don’t. It’s always easier to blame the others, essentially the weaker ones.

Evidence-based management needs to come to the forefront. Take benchmarking as an example. We try to do something that has worked for another company. But do we think about the full span of assumptions that we’re doing? Was the thing that we’re copying the cause for the other company’s success? How does that value chain work exactly? Will it work in our case and why?

Even if we start compiling evidence, which only a few managers do, we may end having too much. And which evidence does really apply to our case? How are we sure we are seeing the causality links in the right way? Are we maybe focusing on the least relevant issue and ignoring the one that’s really paramount?

A doctor could never diagnose a patient without proper examination only based on previous experiences. Yet many managers do that every day. Does that make sense?

Even when you’re in a hurry and have the pressure to act quickly, encourage enquiry and observation. It is the right moment to do it, even when it feels quite the opposite.


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