I’ve been having a wonderful online, blog-to-blog discussion with Critical Mass’ Christopher Berry about why some things (web analytics, in this case) is a harder sell in Canada than in the US. We’ve been talking about cultural mythologies, cognitive processes, working memory, …, lots of science from a broad array of fields. The discussion starts on The Vexing Problem, Part 2. You can read my side starting at Canadian Based Business Differences — Responding to June Li, Christopher Berry and Jacques Warren.
Likewise, I’ve been contributing some posts to Susan Bratton’s blog about social media, gender biasing, …, again lots of science from a broad array of fields.
This weekend I read seven science journals back to back. From this you could conjecture that I enjoy my studies. True, I do delight in them. The joy of discovery is quite real to me and something I share through trainings, presentations, workshops and the like.
But there is conflict between the two worlds in which I walk, science and business. Science — the world I’m more familiar with — seeks explanations. Business seeks actions. Only the highest level of the largest businesses seek explanations and usually only so they’ll know what actions to take.
This conflict is something I described in my exchange with Christopher Berry, something he deliciously describes as “Everybody Loves a Nugget”TM — most people are far better at remembering anecdotes (nuggets) than they are at remembering data sets and the conclusions they point to. It reminds me of talking with some friends in the US Marines, “Use little words, talk slowly, say it three times — ‘this is what you’re going to do, this is what you’re doing, this is what you did’ — so I’ll remember.”
I’ve been thinking about this conflict most of the weekend. Good thing it was a three day weekend here in the US, yes?
Science tends to give you lots of information before offering suggestions because (and contrary to most people’s opinions) science does not deal in absolutes. Anyone who tells you science gives you truths is (in my opinion) mistaken. Science at its best gives one the latest information and hopefully lots of it so that the then informed person can make their own decision based on the best and broadest array of information possible. In other words, give me lots of data, tell me what you think it means and I’ll decide if I agree with you.
Did you notice, for example, that I provided three data points and suggested a conclusion in the first three paragraphs of this post?
Business is different. Business (me thinks) tends to be more “Tell me how to use this” hence most business proposals and reports start with Christopher Berry’s nuggets then go into explanations. I’ve often been in discussions with executives who’ve never read past the bullets on page 2 of a report. They’ll ask a question, I’ll say something like “That information is on page 15 of the report” and they’ll respond with “Oh, I didn’t read that far.”
And why should they? I mean, really. Isn’t that what they’re paying (whomever) for? Business people don’t want an education in my disciplines (Quick poll, just in case; Anybody out there want to do advanced research in Anthrolingualsemiotics? Neuromathematics? Quantummagnetohydrodynamics? Didn’t think so).
Yet everyone’s education is an ongoing thing. You may not want to study what I study and you might still think “…the perspective you bring is fascinating” because you’re getting an education whether you want one or not.
But can everyone do it? Let me expand this question, “Can business people be expected to do the science?”
I think not. Right now, anyway. After long thought and (you guessed it) some research. It’s not their job. It’s mine. And I know I can’t run a business.
Amusingly, as I sit here writing this, I realize how the Science-to-Business Bridge will work and how it will be created (might be, already). Contact me if you’re a scientist and I’ll explain it. Contact me if you’re a business person and I’ll give you the bullet points.
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More information on this topic can be found at How to be Understood and Close Deals in Business Meetings on An Economy of Meaning.
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