Until now, there has been no one place people can go to learn how to avoid misinformation traps. I intend to provide just that. What makes me think I’m qualified to take this on? Two things, thanks for asking.
- As a hands-on behavioral scientist for hire, I rode herd on soup-to-nuts field investigations around the world for more than thirty years. By working with hundreds of companies of every description, I had an all-access pass to more good and bad research than you can shake a (very big) stick at.
- As an Adjunct Professor-for-hire, I designed my own courses in Sociology, Market Research, and Human Behavior and then taught them to a wide assortment of undergraduate and graduate students. Over time and across venues, I learned how to explain complicated subject matter simply.
Over the past three years, I’ve been writing about two interrelated things:
- The insanely awful quality of most market research these days, and
- The inability of decision-makers at all levels to tell the difference between good information and bad.
In today’s workplace, very little of the more than $7 billion decision-makers spent on research last year meets even minimum standards for quality and reliability because:
- Clients pressure vendors to deliver research that is cheaper and faster, so
- Vendors take shortcuts and cut corners.
As a result, more research than ever is poorly done, producing tons of information that is just plain crap. Vendors get away with it because:
- Like chemistry and physics, the deep science of investigating and measuring human behavior is too complex for most folks.
- Research buyers were never shown how to tell good from bad.
- You can’t judge a book by its cover.
My goal for this self-learning course is to improve people’s ability to tell shit from Shinola by teaching them:
- What to look for,
- What questions to ask, and
- How to evaluate the answers they get.
Your life has been full of all kinds of experiences, so you already know a lot about many things. But like most businesspeople, no one ever taught you how to protect yourself against quacks, tricksters, and smooth-talking salespeople.
In my self-directed course,
- You will learn at your own pace. Those who catch on quickly need not twiddle their thumbs while they wait for the others to catch up.
- You will not be asked to memorize anything. You will only be asked to make connections with things you already know. We will build bridges from here to there.
I’ve already begun developing the stories, examples, and illustrations that will make the science behind the research easy for you to understand*. You can help me by letting me know what things to include. Maybe I introduced you to a new concept or provided an example that struck a chord or just said something that stuck with you. All ideas and suggestions are welcomed.
Please forward this appeal to friends and colleagues who deal with information and research in the workplace – the more the merrier! I will give a copy of my latest book free to the first hundred who send me advice as my small way of thanking you for your support. Plus I’d like to make room in the garage for my car. In the meantime, I will be re-issuing some of the articles readers have most enjoyed as well as previewing the betas of some of my new course modules as I develop them.
Two of my role models.
In my self-appointed role as Explainer of Uncommonly Opaque and Mystifying Things, I hope to situate myself somewhere between the acerbic Richard Feyman and the majestic Carl Sagan. Both were exceptionally gifted scientists.
Feyman began his career as a member of the ultra-brainy team that built Fat Man and Little Boy. Later, for having the audacity to invent the field of nanotechnology on a cocktail napkin in a strip joint, he was pilloried by serious scientists. His live-televised shining moment was when he explained the Challenger disaster to a stunned Presidential investigating committee by dipping rubber o-rings in a glass of ice water.
Sagan chose for himself the immense task of explaining science to non-scientists. Disparaged by stiff-necked colleagues for being disrespectful of the scientific community, his lasting legacy is Cosmos, first a PBS series and later seen by more than 500 million people in 60 countries.
Feynman was a prolific writer and a proponent of thought experiments; Sagan was a hypnotic storyteller. Both built bridges to span the gaps between our worlds and theirs by giving us special decoder rings and showing us how to use them.
Early wagering among my friends and colleagues says bet on my being more like Feynman, who also said, “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent, and original manner possible.”
Take a Closer Look, Volume 2, is free to Kindle Unlimited customers. The best way to protect yourself against the manipulations, distortions and fabrications that are more and more prevalent these days is to learn how to see through them.