Friday, March 23, 2012

The Art & Practice of Pronouncement & Prognostication

I hopped on a local city bus this morning and overheard two people talking about the weather and March heat wave that has blessed (or assaulted, depending on your winter pass-time) much of the northern US and southern Canada.

Like many of us do, the people talking about the weather were offering their own forecast. And like many of us do as well, they were expressing their opinions as definitive statements of certain fact as though they could foresee the future. They didn't preface any of their comments with "I guess," "I think or suspect," "I'm gambling," or even the venerable IMHO.

Yes, in context, we all acknowledge that personal weather prognostication is not based on scientific fact or professional judgment - "It is what it is."

It does make me wonder, though, how much confusion we create by stating option, judgments, or "best guesses" as fact in business (or even personal) contexts that are less clear, and having those words taken literally and acted upon by others.

Clarity on what we're expressing (and opinion vs. fact, or even a preliminary thought vs. a fully formed idea call to action) can go a long way towards ensuring that listeners have the right expectations, reducing confusion, making productive change, and building good relationships.


John H. said...

I read your blog with interest as it relates directly to an experience at my business. Our top officials regularly meet in our conference room to discuss issues affecting our organization. This is not a “strategic planning meeting” but an informal “think tank”. I see how confusion is created when others state their opinions are if they were reality. This style of “guessing” as to a solution without knowledge the facts happens all the time.

Dale Arseneault said...

Thanks for the comment John H. A very complex situation you've laid out there. I think "Top Officials," subject matter experts, and even a few of us all, often arrive /intuit legitimate conclusions based on a combination of experience, life-long learning, education, and information consumed from a wide variety of sources. Sometimes "weak signals" is all we have, and hard data is not available. I also see that everyone is challenged in ensuring their "value proposition," is concerned with reputation among peers/colleagues, superiors, and in some cases shareholders. Appearing less than certain about anything is often perceived as weakness. Plus, we all sometimes suffer from "arrogance/ignorance of ego." I believe that taking a
longer term view and trying to be clear about what is fact based, what is intuition based, and what is conjecture will lead to better communication and a better choice of "next step."

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