One unit I used to teach way back when was on journalism. Even though it was a long time ago and everyone’s access to information has changed significantly, the basic principles haven’t. The reason I mention this is that it’s also a critical factor in being a good executive and managing your business. So first some general points and then an example.
I used to tell the students to doubt everything. If they hear a “fact” it was their job to find another source to confirm it. If it came out of research, look into who did the research and why for signs of inherent bias. It they heard or read it from an individual, ask questions – how do you know this, where did you learn it, do you have proof it’s true. I’d remind them of something that I think is even more true now: reporters are supposed to be “fair.” There is supposed to be some objectivity in what they do and critical thinking – separating fact from fiction – is key.
We used to spend time on news vs. opinion and discuss how news informs while opinion persuades. News presents all the facts; opinion presents only those that support the position taken. One is objective; the other subjective. As an aside, this is probably the biggest difference with almost all “news” today.
Example: the plane crash in SF last weekend. Within minutes, social media was filled with photos, witness reports, and statements by people allegedly on the flight. I assume that the folks at the news networks follow Twitter and other sources yet nothing was said by any of them for 15-20 minutes. Is that a failure? Not in my eyes. Clearly SOMETHING was going on but what? Was it a crash or a training exercise or a movie shoot? Saying “there’s a lot of activity on social media about something going on at SFO” is factually correct but says nothing. So they waited to verify the information and then acted.
All of the above is critical when you’re in business. I’m sure you see dozens of “facts” every day, whether they’re memoranda, data, presentations, or just conversations. Acting on any of that information without thinking like a reporter can be fatal. We need to make informed decisions and having the wrong information will make those decisions suffer. You agree?