Of Pundits and Pollsters: A Quick Lesson from the 2016 Presidential Election

Well, the 2016 Election is thankfully over. In the interest of self-disclosure, I didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump. Both were so deeply flawed that my conscience wouldn’t permit me to check the box for either one of them.

All of us know intuitively, and we will be told endlessly by political analysts, that there are lessons to be learned from the election results. Undoubtedly, this is so. However, one of the things that I find most interesting is not the ultimate outcome but the behavior of political pundits and pollsters. The wee hours of the night realization that Trump had eclipsed Clinton was such a shock to these “professionals” that you could almost hear an audible gasp. “How could we have been so wrong?” they are breathlessly asking themselves.

This phenomenon is often seen in business, as well. When you become so convinced that your position, your approach, your strategy is the only way forward, you do so at your own peril.

What leaders do — and what analysts ultimately did in this election — is to ignore the possibility that they might be wrong. There may exist solid reasons for such a strongly held belief, but to foreclose the chance that you are mistaken leads to surprises — bad ones.

Inattentional blindness is a state in which we miss obvious signs of danger or facts that are contrary to our prevailing narrative. “We fail to perceive very major things going on right in front of our eyes,” notes Yale’s Brian Scholl, PhD.1 Just as there was evidence that the chattering political class might have been wrong about their conviction that Hillary Clinton would be our first female president, so to are business leaders often blindsided when they fail to account for the possibility that their assumptions are incorrect.

If your business has been blindsided or you are afraid it might be, give me a call and let’s talk about it.

 

 

 

  1. http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr01/blindness.aspx

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