Archive for the ‘Evidence’ Category

Have you ever wondered why other people are so unreasonable and hard to convince?

October 25, 2007

“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.” [Leon Festinger, et al., When Prophecy Fails (1956)]

Have you ever wondered why other people are so unreasonable and hard to convince? Why is it that they disregard hard facts that prove you’re right and they’re wrong? The fact is, we humans aren’t wired to think very rationally. That’s been confirmed recently by brain scans.

Psychological experiments have shown that humans tend to seek out even weak evidence to support their existing beliefs, and to ignore evidence that undercuts those beliefs. In the process, we apply stringent tests to evidence we don’t want to hear, while letting slide uncritically into our minds any information that suits our needs.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Want to Learn? Put Aside Your Ideologies

October 9, 2007

Ideology is among the more widespread, potent, and vexing impediments to clearly seeing the facts. People routinely ignore evidence when it clashes with their political convictions or idiosyncratic personal histories. Simon and Garfunkel were right when they sang, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

Academics and other thought leaders may worship and believe in their own theories so fervently that it renders them incapable of learning from new evidence. This happens because people “see what they believe.”

Regrettably, too often ideology trumps evidence.

Learning is difficult when leaders or anyone else is driven by ideology rather than evidence.

Hard Facts by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton

Not everything that can be counted counts …

September 16, 2007

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”  [Albert Einstein]

Example: when researching a species these things are important, but cannot be counted: the texture of the skin, the color, the smell.

So, it’s not only quantitative data that is useful when collecting evidence and information.

— Extracted from Hard Facts by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton

Word of the Day: barking moonbat

September 8, 2007

A barking moonbat is someone who bases their belief, not on evidence, logic, or reason, but simply on things that they want to believe and completely ignoring facts.

unSpun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Facts and Evidence: the great levelers

September 5, 2007

“James Barksdale, a former CEO of Netscape, once remarked at a company meeting something to the effect:”

If the decision is going to be made by the facts, then anyone’s facts, as long as they are relevant, are equal. If the decision is going to be made on the basis of people’s opinions, then mine [he was the CEO at the time] counts for a lot more.

“What this anecdote illustrates is that facts and evidence are great levelers of a corporate hierarchy.”

Hard Facts by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton

Experiment-driven, data-driven approach to web design

August 30, 2007

The book Hard Facts talks about the importance of making decisions based on evidence and data (“experiment-driven, data-driven mind-set”).  At this point in the book the authors are talking about how fully Yahoo! embraces this approach:

“Yahoo! Inc is skilled at running experiments and learning from them, as well as building a culture that emphasizes evidence-based management. Usama Fayyad, chief data officer at Yahoo!, points out that because its home page gets literally millions of hits an hour, the company can design rigorous experiments that yield results in an hour or less — randomly assigning, say, one or two hundred thousand visitors to the experimental group and several million to the control group … Yahoo! conducts experiments and uses the results to enhance company revenues and profits.  Much of this can be done very quickly; sometimes, results can be seen within minutes of tweaking something on the homepage or in Yahoo! Mail. This means there is no reason to spend time discussing which variation to explore or what design opportunities to pursue — it is often cheaper, easier, and faster to simply try all of them and learn what actually works. Yahoo! typically runs 20 or so experiments at any time, manipulating things like color, placement of advertisements, and location of text and buttons. These little experiments can have big effects, like the one run by Nitin Sharma, which showed that simply moving the search box from the side to the center of the home page would produce enough additional ‘click-throughs’ to bring in about $20 million more in advertising revenue a year … Yahoo! has the mind-set that says, Instead of debating which screen design looks best, or which placement of content and which choice of specific content works best, we’re going to try it all and see what works.”

Hard Facts by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton