I'm Not Not Wrong!

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‘‘There is an abundance of confidently expressed bad opinions.‘‘

- Ray Dalio - Bridgewater Associates

I used to be much bigger on vision than I am nowadays.

I now believe the process of starting a company (doing what’s been done) or building a startup (actively creating the future) is a process that is much more inductive than deductive by nature.

Vision, can cast a blanket of false certainty over assumptions that are flawed.

The longer we focus on our vision, the heavier that blanket becomes and the harder it becomes to see the truth underneath. Which is why innovation almost always progresses by the death and not the evolution of the incumbents.

Which is why we need to ask ourselves..

‘‘The things we’re so sure about.. what if they’re wrong?’’

How can we tell?

What matters most in our organization, the truth or our feelings?

If we decide that truth matters most then we need to take our emotions out of the equation and be much more objective by designing experiments that can tell us whether or not our hypotheses are likely to be right or wrong.

And shift our culture from a defense motivation (the desire to defend one's existing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors) to an accuracy motivation (the desire to form accurate appraisals of stimuli). (Terminology from Chaiken et al. (1989) in his work on motivated information processing.)

So that ultimately the best idea wins uncoupled from the hierarchical structure of the company. (Meaning a 24 yr old fresh out of college can come up with the winning idea even though she’s not the CEO)

The meta-analysis by Hart et al. (2009) says: ‘‘Presumably, experiencing or anticipating cognitive dissonance motivates people to defend themselves by seeking more congenial than uncongenial information.’’

Which means that when people suspect information will contradict their worldview they’re likely to defend their current views by seeking out information that aligns with it.

This video by Veritasium (2014) demonstrates how hard and non-intuitive it is for people to seek out the truth vs. seeking out information that aligns with their current paradigm.

Intuitively, we know this as well. When people have discussions online, they (as well as us) often look up information about why they’re right instead of the better but harder way, which would be looking up reasons why they could be wrong and seeing if we can invalidate them.

This is how Karl Popper’s scientific process works. You come up with a hypothesis, try and disprove it and the longer it stands, the more your confidence in it grows.

Applied to business this means that instead of having an assumption (treating it like a fact) and stubbornly persisting with it despite a market that’s telling you it’s not that passionate about it, we’d create a hypothesis:

This very specific group of people will love this product, for this price, with these features, delivered in this way, so much that out of 100 people 5 will buy.

Now if you test it out with 100 people and immediately everyone is extremely excited, your confidence that you’re on the right track grows.

But if the more likely event happens, which is that no one wants it. Then you know something is off and you reject or tweak your hypothesis based on the insight you’ve gathered.


References:

Chaiken S, Liberman A, Eagly AH. Heuristic and systematic information processing within and beyond the persuasion context. In: Uleman JS, Bargh JA, editors. Unintended thought. Guilford Press; New York: 1989. pp. 212–252.

Hart, W., Albarracín, D., Eagly, A. H., Brechan, I., Lindberg, M. J., & Merrill, L. (2009). Feeling validated versus being correct: A meta-analysis of selective exposure to information. Psychological Bulletin. 2009; 135(4), 555-588.

RJ Youngling