Cynthia Lesky Seeking 'Truthiness' in Information
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Thursday, 15th November 2012 Sign in to MyJinfo or create an account be able to star items Printable version Subscribe via RSS to get updates as soon as Blog items are added

By Cynthia Lesky

Abstract

With journalism in disarray, news distribution channels changing and simple human error, business research that results in reliable competitive or market intelligence is more difficult to conduct than ever. The foundation for successful research and analysis can be expressed in simple terms: Right Skill Set, Right Mind Set and Right Reports.

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With journalism in disarray, news distribution channels changing and simple human error, business research that results in reliable competitive or market intelligence is more difficult to conduct than ever. These are not entirely new challenges – truth could never be taken for granted – and information professionals possess the necessary competencies to manage them. The foundation for successful research and analysis can be expressed in simple terms: Right Skill Set, Right Mind Set and Right Reports.

The focus here is about everyday occurrences of 'truthiness' (pandering to confirmation bias), 'proofiness' (misuse of statistics) and plain old human errors that never get corrected or retracted. It is often specific factual errors that distort our understanding of a market – as when a market share of 50% gets reported as 5% – or fog competitive intelligence – as when a press release announces production from a new factory, but describes machinery that can only be used for making something else. Right Skill Set and Right Mind Set can help us detect such errors, and Right Reports will communicate to our clients something of the effort that goes into successful research. 

Right Skill Set

Besides being expert in constructing effective searches in databases and on the Internet, knowing something about where Web sites and publications get their content is an important tool in our skill set. Which sources should we be especially careful with and which can we trust?

For instance, press releases – which are always crafted to further the agenda of the issuing organisation – feed the 24 hour news cycle, usually without vetting and – although indispensable to business research – do come with some strings attached. 

Right Mind Set

The Right Mind Set is sceptical. Scepticism means being actively conscious of the possibility of error. Mistakes are made regularly in almost every news or data channel, and very few mistakes ever result in a correction or retraction. But we'd become full-time fact checkers if we had to verify every data point in the news sources we use. The Right Mind Set leads to identifying those facts that are most strategically important.

Right Reports

Keep your skills fresh, develop the right mind set - and then selectively put your accumulated knowledge, hunches and questions into your report to your client.  Candidly explaining challenges encountered in the research process will give clients a richer understanding of the topic and can position you in a consultative role and open up the opportunity to continue the relationship with the client.

FreePint Subscribers can read more about 'truthiness' in news. Log in to view Three Fundamentals for Business Research in the Post-Truth Era.

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