Never waste a good crisis. Take this debate to your board colleagues as to how “post-factual” you are.
What is this “post-factual” era? The blurring of fact and fiction. The removal of the link between claim and evidence.
For example, I listened to the Police Chief Of Yorkshire arguing on Radio 4 last week it was his duty to address pre-crime as if he lived in the film Minority Report. Innocent until proven guilty. This in response to the debate caused by the gentleman who has to report to police 24 hours each time before he has sex. You couldn’t make it up. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/08/father-forced-to-give-police-24-hours-notice-before-he-has-sex-c/
This is not a new phenomenon. Lippmann & Dewey explored the arguments in 1920 even before the rise of fascism through propaganda in the 1930s.
In the last 15 minutes I saw Osborne stand up with a straight face and say he has a positive plan. Whilst in the same moment effectively saying he lied about austerity budgets. Would love to hear the recordings of his calls to all those financial heads round the world over the weekend.
And then Boris’s soundbite as he leaves the house: it’s “confusion in the media” because “the pound is stable, the markets are stable” and everybody can live where they like in the UK so there’s nothing to fear. So nothing changed really. So nothing happened really. And later it’s the headline clip in the 10am news.
Cut to the City in the same minute and RBS and Barclays shares were frozen this morning as they fell so sharply because expectation is interest rates will fall further to deal with recession and loss of position of London.
Which is true? Which is reported? Post-factual.
So how should you, as a leader, deal with this post-factual era we now find ourselves in?
What? – you think you don’t do things like that at work?
What about when you stood up to sell the strategy you know isn’t going to work? What about when you said the CEO has it sorted when you know full well he hasn’t got a strategy? What about introducing idiotic changes that are not ok for the customer?
Maybe you don’t or won’t do that because it goes against your values. “I don’t lie”, you tell yourself.
But what about when you stay quiet in these circumstances. Do you stand up and say to someone else, “you can’t say that, it isn’t true. It’s not OK”?
The opposite of honesty isn’t, in most cases, lying. The opposite of honesty is silence.
So what should you be doing to check you aren’t a closet “post-factual” person?
First – check is your company a “post-factual” environment or not?
a) Do the front line staff really believe and act on the communications they receive?
b) Do the board listen and act on the communications they receive? Personally.
c) Are people challenging people on whether the evidence is stacking up with their point of view?
d) Are people quiet and not challenging their seniors or loud-shouters on what’s really happening?
Try this test – Many CEOs of UK and foreign owned businesses sent round reassuring notes on Friday. Best practice. But to what extent was it seen in your company as true or to be expected or cynical?
Second – check do you yourself have any post-factual behaviours?
a) Do you let stuff go, because you can’t fight every argument, even when valid according to the data?
b) Are people telling you to calm down or toe the line in areas that matter to you and where the data goes against the given view?
c) Are you getting push backs or not? Or are you agreeing too much with what’s in front of you?
d) Do you debate in order to see the other person’s point of view? What else do you do to check your not the “flat earth” side of the argument?
Third, decide what you want to stand for. How you want to use post-factual techniques or not.
a) There is no doubt people follow people. People with purpose and integrity. So how will you display this. What does it look like? Who is your role model? – in the detail, not a figurehead celebrity.
b) Listening with data or a strong stance regardless of data. Or both. Hard one this. But do it consciously. Make conscious decisions on which techniques are ethical and valid and will work.
c) Collectively discuss with your board colleagues what you want to stand for. Debate it. Be it. Consciously not accidentally.
So examine your environment, yourself and your team. Be conscious of what post-factual is, does and leads to. Decide where you stand.
Final point – add a little humour when deflating fact free conversations. and don’t take yourself too seriously! We are all a bit ‘fact free’ in this post-factual era – humans always have been.