A funny thing hit the news the other day that struck me as a wonderful parable for modern-day decision making. Both NPR and Fox News (yes, both the yin and yang, alpha and omega, chicken and… well… fox) reported that scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are finding that probes monitoring global sea temperatures now show a general cooling of the world’s oceans.
The fact that the world’s oceans are cooling is of scientific interest, of course, but the real insight to the articles (and of this post) is the conclusions drawn by the observers and the journalists covering the story. They posit that a) the oceans have actually warmed up and expanded, thus somehow cooling the temperature, b) the probes are sending bad information, c) they are unsure what’s wrong with the probes, and d) with a little “perspective” they’ll be able to figure this all out.
I don’t know if it’s the scientists or the journalists capturing these priceless gems of wisdom, but the large elephant in the room is the only one actually articulating the idea that maybe the oceans are just cooling.
It’s difficult for a scientist wrapped in the mantle of global warming for years to objectively synthesize information that contradicts a well constructed preconception.
These guys would fit right in with more corporate staff positions than we’d care to admit.
We love to be consistent and we look down upon those who are not. Look at the words we use to describe them, particularly in this political season: you flip-flopped, you were “for it before you were against it,” (or vice versa), or perhaps you just chose to waffle. None are words you’d want to be known for in your high school yearbook. “Most Likely to Spinelessly Vacillate” isn’t the thing that gets you the promotion, the date, or the statue in the town square.
I recall Gerald Zaltman stating in his excellent book, “How Customers Think,” that 90% of marketing research is conducted to validate preconceptions, and I’d have to say he’s probably right in my experience. How often do we see the “facts” interpreted to fit preconceptions dearly held?
I know it hurts, but sometimes we have to just admit that a cigar is just a cigar.