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Why Guesswork In Business Is Simply Not Good Enough

This may sound like a strange start to an article but it is vey true, and I will tell you why.

As a man, I know that stereotypically, we are not very good at talking about our feelings. Even discussing the smallest issue can feel like a big deal.

The world is very emotional.

This may sound like a strange start to an article but it is vey true, and I will tell you why.

As a man, I know that stereotypically, we are not very good at talking about our feelings. Even discussing the smallest issue can feel like a big deal. Add to this, the old school viewpoint that opening up to someone used to be viewed as a sign of weakness. The road most travelled resulted in saying nothing and bottling it up inside.

Thankfully those days are being left behind. This can be attributed to the fantastic work undertaken by Prince William and Prince Harry on raising mental health issues, as well as high profile sportsmen and celebrities speaking out about the challenges faced.

Whilst, the modern psyche has become more open to accepting new ways of dealing with issues, business appears not to have followed the same path.

The old adage of “I’ve done this for 30+ years” no longer applies as a stand alone response to a particular course of action. Experience is great and should be harnessed, but as part of decision making process; not the sole deciding factor.

Taking the ‘guess’ out of ‘guesswork’.

For far too long, key decisions have been made by senior management, with nothing more than gut feel.

Perhaps you think this is a little unfair.

Let’s say for arguments sake, a senior person in the business decides to expand, cut costs or start a new initiative. I’d be willing to say the driver for this is gut feel, followed by some scrambling around by employees to find some information to support this course of action.

There is nothing wrong with having an idea, quite the opposite. The important aspect to bear in mind, is what happens next.

Why not propose an idea to drive a hypothesis and stress test the subsequent theory?

This approach not only provides rigour around the thinking but allows for input by multiple people. It is difficult to understand a ‘gut feeling’ especially when you need people to buy-in to your idea.

As such, would you rather make a decision based on as much information as possible? Or just ‘wing it’ and hope for the best?

I used to work for a COO who could be a real challenge. It provided us with some serious headaches but fundamentally I knew what he was saying was right. I also knew what he wanted before he said it.

His mantra was ‘fight feelings with facts’. Short and sweet.

He would not curtail idea generation, or innovative ways of working. Rather if you wanted to present a piece of work, don’t be emotive about it. Decide what you want to do, find some information to support this work and then present it to him. Having data to support your work did not mean you were in for an easy ride, but meant you got off on the right foot.

The sad fact is we see guesswork ruling our lives on a regular basis.

Take Brexit for example...

It’s an emotive subject I know. I’ve heard conversations about how friends have been lost over the referendum result. That is not my topic for discussion.

Instead, I want to highlight how emotions and guesswork decided the vote.

If you think back to the campaigns, it became a highly emotionally charged debate often omitting any facts, instead focusing on pulling heart strings.

Both sides, “Remain” and “Leave”, were guilty of this.

The Remain campaign focused on how leaving Europe would stuff up future generations. Whereas the Leave campaign focused on immigration and the influence Brussels had on the UK.

But sadly, both relied on emotions and guesswork.

‘Leavers’ quite happily said if you don’t like David Cameron, vote out. ‘Remainers’ talked about UKIP and their potentially extremist tendencies. This was all emotions.

So lets look at the guesswork:

  • The leave campaign promoted on the side of a bus, that leaving the EU will save the UK £350m per week, to be given to the NHS. This was pure guesswork and a false promise which Nigel Farage admitted was a lie immediately after the result. 
  • The remain campaign wouldn’t put any figures out because they didn’t know what they would be!

It doesn’t matter which way I voted because the problem afflicted both sides. They relied on guesswork and emotion.

To re-iterate this point even further:

“if I said to you that you could stop paying your mortgage right now, if you voted yes, would you do it?” 

Yes? Or No?

Quick I need an answer.

If you gave me an answer without asking any more questions, this proves my point perfectly!

How can you make a decision without understanding the facts of the situation or the possible consequences / benefits? Addressing the question above, I would follow up with:

  • Will I still be able to live in my house?
  • Will I still owe the bank my mortgage?
  • What happens if we move?

These are literally questions which popped into my head immediately, without even taking a moment to think further. I would hope that as a sensible society, such big decisions would not be made on a whim.

But evidence clearly contradicts this.

We, the UK, now have to live by the result, which will impact future generations and that frustrates me.

Had both sides conducted some (even rudimentary) analysis based on fact and presented some ‘proper’ information to support the pros and cons for leaving, then I would be more inclined to accept the result. However, as it stands, emotion won and I think that’s a travesty.

How does all this apply to a small boutique consultancy?

I’m still not going to tell you what we do as a business. You can get in touch to ask if you are interested.

Instead, I want to prove to you that we do what we do because we believe in our mantra: “Guesswork is not good enough.” This is our ‘why’ and applies to multiple facets of business and life.

There are no parameters for the exclusion of guesswork. A small guess can have catastrophic results, conversely a big guess may not have much of an impact. But are you really willing to take that risk?

Just ask the CEO of TSB that question now... (read about the online banking issues if this doesn’t make sense).

As the world continues to evolve at an ever increasing rate, poor decisions can have a devastating impact on business successes.

To give your business the best possible chance of success, would it not make sense to base key decisions on facts, rather than a feeling from your gut?

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