Magazine article CRM Magazine

Pint of View: You Can't (Mis)handle the Truth!

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Pint of View: You Can't (Mis)handle the Truth!

Article excerpt

Thoughts on the role of truth in a post-facts world

I'VE BEEN THINKING of late about what my job as a technology industry analyst really is. Lots of things are expected of us. We should have general familiarity with as many vendors as possible, of course, as well as a working knowledge of the differences in their capabilities. We should understand what their customers' needs are and how they're likely to change. But we don't have to be right. It's nice but not always necessary. Weird, huh?

Recently, I got hung up on a research note, hesitating and procrastinating because I felt like some of my conclusions seemed unsupported. It turns out that analysts aren't journalists; we should report the truth when possible, but a large part of the job is taking educated guesses. Not only is it OK to speculate, in many cases it's actively encouraged.

Sometimes it's less important to make definitive statements that predict the future than it is to stimulate discussion and get people thinking about the possibilities. This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to be right, since a lot of what we do counts as advice, but there are limits. You know that "safe harbor" boilerplate that corporations show before any presentation that includes "forward-looking statements"? I could have that tattooed on my forehead because I'm making those statements all the time.

This has been difficult to wrap my mind around, because we have reached a point in society wherein the truth of a matter is secondary to the way it makes people feel. It's less important that a statement is a mischaracterization, or even an outright and easily provable lie, if it motivates voters and supporters. The phrases "alternative facts" and "fake news" have entered the lexicon, and they don't seem to be going away.

No matter how much evidence exists to support one side of an argument, it can be rendered irrelevant by "gut feeling" and repetition of lies. It's often said that a lie travels faster than the truth, and the bigger the better. A truly outlandish whopper takes off because it appeals to our desire to tell stories. Debunking the lie is always late because you can't do it before the lie exists, and by that time the lie is a part of everybody's consciousness. …

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