I was reading a sports business newsletter this morning and I came across a quote that prompted a business thought. The speaker – a host on ESPN – was reflecting on the demands placed on journalists these days. What she had to say about the need to be fast was this:
The whole Wells Report is like 400 pages. I don’t have time to read 400 pages, but I have to go on the air to say something about these 400 pages. I may have read a good third of it. That’s where we are right now. The whole need to produce an opinion has overshadowed the need to produce reporting. When I was growing up, people were watching the news and expecting unfiltered, objective news. Now, if it isn’t about clicks, it is about drawing attention to yourself and making your opinion stand out and that is difficult.
The Wells report, for those of you not following the story, was an independent review of the deflating of footballs by the New England Patriots during a playoff game last season. I think what she had to say applies to any of us in business and it’s instructive.
We get so much information on a continual basis. Inevitably, some higher up asks about what’s going on and there is a rush to judgement. Many of us feel the need to produce an opinion even though we don’t feel as if we’ve had the time to adequately analyze and reflect on the information we’re getting. That’s dangerous and, in my book, often counterproductive.
We all have opinions – just check your Facebook feed and you’ll see dozens. I think we all like to believe that we base them on facts, but that same feed will show us that many times that’s just not so. When that request for information is made, the person asking is generally not seeking your opinion. They want a cogent analysis of factual material. The problem is that we’ve all become accustomed to getting the answers fast. After all, in a world where much of the learning of humankind is at your fingertips and is just a search query away, our sense of patience has all but disappeared. The quote’s reference to “unfiltered, objective news” applies to the expectations we have in business. Unfortunately, so too does the emphasis on speed and the need to place yourself front and center.
Like you, I get asked for quick answers. I’ll often give one along with a disclaimer that it’s an informed opinion but not necessarily reflective of all of the facts and request the opportunity to come back with a more informed answer. If I know the person asking is going to take immediate action on my answer, I might even ask for a brief delay before I respond so I can gather up some more objective information. How do you handle it?