” The first principle is that you must not fool yourself— and you are the easiest person to fool.”
What’s the first thing you need when you’re building a new app or e-commerce product?
Some might say a solid marketing strategy. Others might remark that investors may come in handy. Still others might quip that you just need a good product.
That’s just it, isn’t it?
How can you deliver a great product? How can you ensure that you’re providing value to your customer base? How can you make sure your offering is going to be indispensable?
Clarity. Trust. Openness—and dependability. After all, when you’re launching a new product, you need to assure your audience that you are providing value. Your audience needs to trust that you aren’t fooling them.
That integrity needs to start with you. In his 1974 commencement address at CalTech, Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman spoke of the freedom of integrity. Having the courage to admit to ourselves that an idea is wrong, to look at all of the information, Feynman noted, is the basis for providing a valuable contribution to your field.
Before we can help others, we need to be honest with ourselves. How can we do that? Let’s dive right in with a few ways to make sure we’re not fooling anybody—most of all, ourselves.
We tend to look for facts that confirm our point of view. We ignore facts that contradict our beliefs. This is normal—but, to be effective, we need to stop!
According to a study in Nature, our confidence may contribute to this habit. When we are sure we are right, we impact our brain’s ability to process new information. We are less likely to be open to contradictory facts.
Fortunately, there’s a fix! You can combat this tendency by staying logical—and staying alert. Notice when you’re getting ready to dismiss a new fact. Ask yourself why you think the new point is irrelevant.
Play the Devil’s Advocate: See if you can make the strongest possible case for why the new facts might be relevant. You may learn something that may just change your mind.
Without getting into the gory details, the fundamental concern with p-hacking is that some researchers cherry-pick facts to support their hypotheses. This is another sneaky way to fool ourselves, as well as those who trust us—not a great (or productive, or particularly trustworthy) look!
There will always be a way to make a product appear more effective or to explain away a company’s bad bottom line. Resist this temptation. Your credibility is at stake. Instead of covering up ‘bad’ data, look at it as an opportunity. If you’ve found a way you need to improve, improve! Invest. Conquer.
The File Drawer Problem
We only hear about the flashiest results and the most astonishing findings. We don’t hear about the times when experiments failed. That research doesn’t get published. Instead, it just gets stuck in the file drawer.
The same problem surfaces in product development. Employees may not alert you about an issue. You may overlook an unsurprising (but impactful) industry analysis. Someone might have an astounding but ultimately discarded idea simply because an initial result was lackluster.
The real solution?
Be open to new information. Be determined to know the facts so you can act on them. Be less convinced that you already know everything! That’s precisely when you can get into trouble. As Shakespeare once wrote, “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”