Reading Yesterday’s Papers

As I’ve mentioned before here on the screed, I’m an old-school newspaper reader. Yep – ink on my hands and everything.
From time to time, I get tied up in other activities – work, sports viewing, family activities, whatever – and I can’t get to a particular day’s papers until a day or two later.  Last week was one of those weeks and I spent last night catching up on four days’ reading. As I was doing so, I noticed something that spurred a business thought I’d like to share.

Many of the articles I read were predictive in nature.  Something had happened, the reporter gathered the facts, and based on that looked forward.  Many of the pieces contained quotes from analysts of one sort or another – professionals or just the average person talking about what was going to happen next.  What I noticed, with the benefit of hindsight, was how often they were wrong.  Generally, that wasn’t because they made incorrect assumptions but something else had happened in the interim that changed the circumstances and, therefore, the predictions or suggestions for courses of action were off target.

Given the “right now” demands of media, most which come from the immediate nature of digital reporting, I wasn’t surprised   How often recently have we seen big headlines splashed across the Web that are totally wrong an hour later?  Even the delay built into the print medium (it takes time to get that ink on paper) isn’t quite long enough to improve the analysis dramatically.  Which is the business thought.

Business has been mirroring digital.  Every enterprise seems to have a “do it fast and fix it later” mandate.  Maybe what’s needed is to wait to react to  the reporting – the data we get on a minute by minute basis – until a more clear picture emerges?   Go follow the print editions of a story across a week and see how things change (most print publications make that possible on their sites).  You’ll be surprised   Now imagine if that story was about your business.  What would change each day that would change the actions taken the day before?

I realize we don’t all have the benefit of reading yesterday’s business with that kind of hindsight.  Maybe we ought to work on a way to bring that perspective more front and center?  After all, deciding not to decide is a decision, right?  Many of the deadlines we impose are self-directed.  In my book, a little more perspective with which to frame what we know (or think we know) can’t hurt.  What do you think?

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