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Facts Remain Stubborn Things

For researchers, the goal is to get the facts right, to provide the right intelligence to make the best decision.

By Kevin Lonnie

It’s been a tough month for the US Intelligence Committee.  Their credibility has been brought into question and their importance to the incoming administration appears compromised.   Of course, this can change but outgoing President Obama felt the need to remind the incoming administration of the need for intelligence briefings.

While the intelligence community has recently been under the gun, the 2016 electoral season was equally disconcerting to pundits & pollsters.  The ascendency of the populist movement as best reflected by Brexit and the impending Trump Presidency came as surprises, tarnishing the public image of political polling accuracy.

While blatant skepticism of intelligence findings might be out of the ordinary in the public sector, those of us on the private are quite familiar with C-Suite Executives who casually dismiss our findings in lieu of their own intuition.  Another way of phrasing this is that there are pleasant facts and inconvenient truths.  It’s generally easier for senior management to accept the facts that best match their plan of action.

While political winds twist and turn (who knows how long the populist movement will dominate western politics?), facts have a way of providing firm ground.  I for one, don’t believe we are moving to a society where facts no longer matter.  They persist and given time, allow us to return to better options.

As such, it might be easy to dismiss our contributions.   But the goal remains the same, to get the facts right, to provide the right intelligence to make the best decision. A certain amount of criticism can be appropriate at times as it provides motivation to help us up our game.

David Ogilvy (who worked for British Intelligence during World War II) wrote that most executives fail to achieve the full benefits of research/intelligence “they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”  Although the receptivity for our potential contributions might vary, that should not dissuade us from providing illumination.

While the world of polling/research/intelligence may have taken a hit, we can take pride in knowing the facts we provide remain stubborn bulkheads.  While they not always be popular or convenient, they remain obstinately anchored in objective truth.

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