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Jo Geraghty

Director

Trumpeting the answer – now what was the question

Date added: 09th Nov 2016
Category: Organisational Culture Change

If we are serious about delivering a new and innovative world which delivers genuinely identified solutions rather than selling ideas and products then it is time to ditch assumptions and to start asking the right questions.

Regardless of your views on the outcome of the US presidential election one thing stands out; the polls yet again were wildly inaccurate. Following on from the prediction/results mismatch in the last UK general election and in the Brexit vote perhaps this should not have been a surprise. But if you follow the three strikes and you’re out rule then maybe it’s time to look again at the way in which we rely on survey responses to dictate actions.

At this stage the phrase lies damn lies and statistics comes to mind but are we not being naive in the way in which we interpret data. In particular should we not also remember the rule which states that if you put garbage in you get garbage out? And we are not talking here simply about predicting the results of elections. In an increasingly data rich world we are coming to rely more and more on the results of surveys and feedback without pausing to ask ourselves one simple question. Are we asking the right questions in the first place?

For the purposes of this article I am excluding those surveys which are deliberately skewed to deliver a result which would look good on the marketing blurb. If people are asked whether they would prefer to wash their faces using a luxuriously scented soap bar or the untreated hair of a mountain goat then it’s a fair bet that we are looking for a predictable outcome. But much of the science and psychology behind opinion polls and surveys was developed in the days before social media and global interconnectedness and it may well be that what once was seen as a closed question is now perceived by the responder to be very much more complex and nuanced.

And it has to be said that, particularly when it comes to business, we are still far too naive about the interaction between survey and customer or employee perception. We know that employee engagement is a perennial challenge for businesses and yet far too often organisations still content themselves with the annual survey; with results being released several months later, if at all. We also know that 360 surveys are a vital tool in helping leaders to develop understanding and skills. Yet all too often these surveys are delivered in such a way as to make the responder look to give positive rather than accurate feedback.

And when it comes to customer interaction, building true insight which will help to define product innovation and delivery we are still scratching on the surface of the interconnected world. We mistake data for understanding and we mistake tick box surveys for genuine feedback. If we are serious about building Next Generation Organisations which deliver genuinely innovative solutions then we have to stop playing around with data and start building insight.

The world today is very different from the hierarchical pigeonholed world of yesteryear. We may still be influenced by thoughts and opinions and upbringing from friends and family within our immediate neighbourhood but we are also very much part of a global interconnectedness which gives voice to those who previously would not be heard. If businesses (and if governments) are serious about delivering a new and innovative world which delivers genuinely identified solutions rather than selling ideas and products then it is time to ditch assumptions and to start asking the right questions.

 

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