Finding the Truth Beyond the Facts

Management scholar Peter Drucker didn’t trust facts. He believed they were a red herring in the decision making process and that leaders who needed to make important decisions were better served by first asking for opinions and seeking dissent. Why?

“No one has ever failed to find the facts they’re looking for,” Drucker said. This statement from 1993 is even more relevant now. With today’s lightning speed cyber library, we have quick access to millions of facts and when we search for facts that support our opinions, we find them.

Recently, I googled “does God exist?” My results were comprised mostly of atheistic theories based on scientific facts. Why? Because my search history includes people like Oxford ethologist Richard Dawkins and comedian Ricky Gervais. A friend conducted the same search, and because he’s explored various Christian leaders and concepts, his results were much different from mine.

Google gave each of us what it believed we wanted based on the analytics of our previous searches. In other words, we got what we needed to support what we already thought. There was little that carried a dissenting opinion.

It’s easy to forget that facts are not representative of the whole truth. Remember the tale of the blind men who were asked to describe an elephant? One said an elephant was like a pillar because all he felt was the leg. Another insisted an elephant was like a rope because he was only touching the tale. All provided accurate facts. But none were able to had the entire truth.

In our data-driven era, where in .001 seconds you can locate hundreds of facts to support your opinion, ChangeMakers must be willing to first, as Drucker put it, gather opinions and seek dissent. This is what will lead to a full spectrum of information from which the truth can be culled.

Drucker reminds us that “The understanding that underlies the right decision grows out of the clash and conflict of divergent opinions and out of serious consideration of competing alternatives” It may take more effort and more time, but isn’t knowing you made the best decision worth it?

Check out this delightful video on the Six Blind Men and the Elephant. Showing how you can have facts and still be so far away from the truth.

2 Comments on Finding the Truth Beyond the Facts

  1. Thanks Shelley. A timely reminder to look more broadly than our usual media sources. Just recently Ive been asking “what do our politicians believe that drives their decisions?”, rather than why are they making such bad decisions? For similar reasons as you’ve mentioned.

  2. Thanks for the hint on the bias of our personal google analytics. I cab enlist some friends/colleagues with very differing world views to do google searches for me, or use very different search words. Yes, a broader view is needed to give more viable solutions.

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