How a Post-Truth Era Impacts Your Business
As early as 1992, politics was described as a "post-truth" environment. In this world, what one feels and believes takes precedence over facts and these feelings and beliefs then govern policy. More recently, post-truth politics has taken center stage.
Each of us would like to believe that we are not among the lesser folk whose thoughts and actions are dictated more from emotional appeal than truth. And, as business owners, your belief is that post-truth applies only in politics, but has no bearing on your business.
Unfortunately, we all bend to the will of emotional appeal, often ignoring factual evidence to the contrary. We do this in every aspect of our lives, work included. And, guess what? It even happens in your deeply ingrained culture that honors truth, integrity, and openness.
Take a deep breath
Why? Social scientists have shown that information hits the emotional center of your brain a split second before your reasoning takes over. A deep breath after the initial emotional response enables the "slow thinking" part of your brain to engage. Post-truth environments rule when we operate through emotion, rather than take the time to engage our rational slow-thinking brain. (See Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Hahneman)
The post-truth environment has grown in large part because we engage more with each other on a purely emotional, fast-thinking level. We Tweet, like Facebook posts, and get our news from often biased, for-profit media that relies on your emotional response.
The organizational deep breath
All work environments are fast-paced. We try to do more with less and communicate in sound bites, even in those drawn-out, boring as Hell meetings. I say something. You react. I react to your reaction, which triggers Johnny to react and Suzie to react to him. Around and around we go, thinking fast.
What you need is an organizational deep breath that allows you to think slow. It's not as hard as you might imagine. For the sake of this exercise, I will assume that you have a clearly defined vision to which your leadership team is 100% aligned. I will also assume that you've weeded out anyone not exhibiting your core values most of the time because they will force you into more emotional, fast-thinking behavior.
Step 1: Data
Data doesn't lie. You can ignore data (see the 2016 election), but only if you aren't in agreement on which data elements are most important to your business. What 10 to 15 metrics drive your business goals? These might include sales volume, receivables, inventory, marketing leads, or even employee retention. Identify the numbers you need each week to reach your quarterly and annual goals. Agree on and track these numbers weekly.
Step 2: Rocks
Hopefully, you've clarified a picture of where you want to be in three years and have established your annual goals. What absolutely must get done in the next 90 days to achieve your goals? These are your "rocks." Assign individual ownership to each rock. There are no group rocks because if there's no ownership, it won't get done.
Step 3: The deep breath
The deep breath happens in what we call your Meeting Pulse™. Your leadership team meets weekly at the same time, same place, and with mandatory attendance. The first part of the meeting is fast-thinking, and fully two-thirds of the meeting is slow-thinking.
The fast-thinking portion is simple reporting. You report on your data, your rocks, and any weekly to-dos to which you agreed. You say nothing more than "on track" or "off track" for each metric. Your facilitator immediately halts any attempts at discussion, which is purely an emotional reaction.
If being off track (or a to-do isn't done) requires further discussion, you add it to a simple list we call your Issues List. Once all the reporting is complete, you take your organizational deep breath and solve your issues by engaging the slow-thinking part of your brain.
Slow-thinking in action
We ask that you identify the root of the issue before any discussion. The first few passes at "the cause" of your problem will be almost entirely emotional - your reaction to what you believe. You'll notice that you're often in post-truth territory with the first take at the root cause. Keep digging to find your way to a fact-based cause of your issue. This may take up to 15-20 minutes, but until everyone agrees on the root cause, you're not there.
Example: "The issue is that website is too old and outdated." While in part true, this may not be the root cause of having fewer marketing leads than you need. A deep dive might reveal that you have a weak value proposition - something a new website won't solve. See, post-truth doesn't necessarily mean that you're ignoring all facts. It means that you're cherry-picking a few facts to justify your feelings and beliefs. While fast thinking might work off a single fact, slow thinking examines all available facts.
To slow your thinking and move beyond your reactions, limit your discussion to one comment per person. When everyone abides by this rule, they are forced to stop and think before blurting out "their thoughts" (emotional response).
After once around, solve your issue. You'll usually have several to-dos that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-constrained).