When creating a strategy, we know that expectations, assumptions, and aspirations are not enough. To plan our way forward, we must rely on the great obscurantist, the great deceiver: facts. That person might be, in the words of the 14th-century Chaucer, “a smiling man with a knife in his cloak.” Many strategic disputes were lost because the facts were not properly interrogated to reveal their full significance. (Rufus Choate, that crafty trial lawyer, once said of cross-examination: “If you don't outwit the witness, he's going to break you.”)
What is it about the essence of a fact that resists the artistic techniques that seek to extract all its meaning?
Well, for one thing, there is the plasticity of facts. Every elementary school student knows that a “6'' looks like a “9'' when viewed from a different angle, but what about scientifically verified facts? Surely they should be clear?
It turns out that even verifiable physical facts, isolated and scrutinized by the rigors of scientific investigation, can undergo surprising shape changes. Let's think about light. Is it a wave or a particle? The answer depends on how you measure it. “Facts” are often just a perspective.
Because we think in stories, facts are spring-loaded stories. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman said: They need a story. ” Therefore, the stories that facts conjure up in our minds, stories that nestle into our preconceptions and please our impulses, are the ones we are most likely to fall into.
We are not fooled by the facts.we are fooled by it Story About that fact.
“Any fact becomes important when it is connected to other facts. Connections change the perspective,” says a character in Umberto Eco's novel. Foucault's pendulum. The way you organize the facts, the way you connect them together, changes the story.
How we connect facts in our heads is exactly what the title of the Central Intelligence Agency's training manual says: Psychology of intelligence analysis We are warning you about the following:
“The main concern is that if the analyst focuses primarily on trying to confirm one hypothesis that is probably true; People are easily misled by the fact that there is so much evidence to support their views. They do not realize that much of this evidence is also consistent with other explanations and conclusions, and that these other alternatives are not refuted. You should also consider whether there is a lack of information. It is either normal or itself an indicator of abnormal activity or inactivity. ”
The CIA's training manual recommends asking three important questions: If this report had told me the opposite, would I have believed it? Would I have been surprised if the opposite had happened? If the opposite outcome occurred, was it foreseeable given the available information?
This is, of course, very similar to what the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper advised. contrary evidenceBecause falsifiability is the essence of the scientific process.
Lilian Anekue, writing new scientistsays:
“Suppose you have a theory that all swans are white.'' The obvious way to prove this theory is to see if all swans really are.
It's white, but there's a problem. No matter how many white swans you find, you can't be sure that there isn't a black swan lurking somewhere. Therefore, the theory cannot be proven to be true. In contrast, finding a single black swan guarantees that the theory is wrong. This is the unique power of disproof. The only thing he has is the ability to disprove a universal proposition with a single example. Popper pointed out that this ability follows directly from the theorem of deduction. logic. “
In the 1970s, there was a popular television series called “. colomboIn , Detective Inspector Columbo, played by actor Peter Falk, solves a series of perfect crimes committed by wealthy people with perfect alibis.
Unlike many detective series where you don't know who the culprit is, in this inverted TV series you usually get to see the culprit commit the crime. In other words, it's the criminal part. Therefore, our interest lies in the Howcatchim part. The sleazy blue-collar homicide detective can solve crimes with his rumpled beige coat, unassuming demeanor, homely references to his always-off-screen wife, and often anxiety-relieving phrases like, There is a foreshadowing. ”
For Lieutenant Colombo, the decisive clue is abnormalityExample: Feather pillows outside the hospital room. problematic waters (“Hospital pillows don't have feathers. Feathers can cause allergies. Hospital pillows were all made of foam rubber.”) Or a fountain with no running water. Requiem for a shooting star (“Why isn’t there a fountain? That’s what I was curious about. Yes, that’s what I started to worry about. Why isn’t the water flowing? Most people like the sound of running water. Or the discrepancy between the victim's home library, which only contains cassettes of country and western music, and the victim's car radio, which is set to a classical music station. murder blueprint (“It was the music thing that bothered me. Carnegie Hall and Nashville. They don’t mix.”)
of context facts influence meaning, comparison When other facts influence the view, connection Combined with other facts to influence the story, change Some situations affect the lifespan of facts.
That's why when we look at the facts, we remember Benjamin Franklin's saying, “If Jack is in love, he can't judge Jill's beauty,” and “If Jack is in love, he can't judge Jill's beauty.” This is why we ponder what “what'' is, adding the corollary that “we cannot judge what'' is. How do you evaluate “beauty”? And always pay attention to “Does it really matter how beautiful someone is here?”
After all, how can you be sure your strategy doesn't contradict the facts if you don't check the facts?
Please check the previous Strategygrams here.
Sattar Khan can be contacted at email@example.com.
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