TRUTH, HONESTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF INFORMED DECISIONS
Shel Hart 3-2022
We live in turbulent times. Our polarization has made it nearly impossible to have genuine, two-way communication that could create greater clarity, understanding, responsibility, and unity. There is division over color, creed, gender, economics, politics, and even our personal health care freedoms.
As human beings living together on this planet, there is one thing that unites us all. We all have a deep desire, whether conscious or unconscious, to live a healthy, balanced, and full life. To achieve that goal, we must make the most informed choices, in the present, so that we may thrive in the future, experiencing life at its fullest potential. It doesn’t matter your race, whether you’re 20 or 80, rich or poor, where you live, or what your net worth. We all desire to be well informed and make the best and most balanced decisions for ourselves, our family, and our society.
With the advance of the information age and 24x7 access to the World’s information, it has become increasingly difficult discern the difference between “truth” and “honesty” and how to make better informed decisions.
The universe of “fake news” has grown exponentially. Anyone can now be an author, even me , in this new digital universe. Partisans that wish to influence beliefs, untrained journalists, satirists, imposters, fabricated content, and manipulated content all colliding to create more deflection, distraction, and disunity. We spend an average of 147 minutes a day on our social feeds through Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram, and Linkedin and have collectively fed a full blown infodemic.
It’s all such a blur…. Facts, rumors, and fears collide making it difficult to discern the essential information about an issue, story, or cause. Truth and honesty become disconnected as separate constructs and lose their intersection.
Consider the story of a group of blind men given a different area of an elephant. Each blind man examines a different part of the elephant and is to report his findings. One is given the trunk, another an ear, and yet another the tail. None of the men can visualize the entire elephant and thus each perceives a different truth about the animal. Is their assessment honest? Yes. Are they providing the truth? No. The blind men can only provide an honest assessment of a limited vantage point which doesn’t ultimately equate to the truth of what an elephant is.
Should we view truth as a matter of perception or as the same as fact? Is truth an absolute fact and honesty a quality? Is honesty an act of being truthful to others? Hmmm…
Regardless of the ultimate philosophical conclusions, we can all agree that we are in an infodemic. Oxford press defines an infodemic as an excessive amount of information about a problem that is typically unreliable, spreads rapidly, and makes a solution more difficult to achieve. From my perspective, the current infodemic has far wider implications for our society that of the recent Covid pandemic!
According to a 2017 McKinsey Report, critical decision failures occur as frequently as decision successes. In addition, more than 90% of business decisions are commonly based on factors such as personal intuition, experiences, education, history, emotions and gut feelings (Marks, 2017; Elliott, 2007; Wolf, 2013). The overall quality of our decision making is in decline and has serious implications for the future of our businesses, families, and society.
Here are some practical tips to enhance informed decision making and better aligning honesty and truth:
1. Frame it - Identify the core problem / issue
What is the question you are ultimately trying to solve? What is the core issue? Look past the headlines and assess what the root causes are to the headline or symptom. Our decision making is often clouded by the fact we can’t articulate the real issue due to a sensationalized narrative.
2. Collect and evaluate
Assess the source data. Evaluate how people are interpreting and/or presenting the data. You can manipulate data to generate many different conclusions to support your own narrative. Dig into what those assumptions are in how the data was assembled. Minimize “interpreters” and lean into to those with specific expertise and credibility.
Image: Maxliving, 2022
3. Identify alternatives
What are alternative ways to assess, solve, or reach a conclusion? What are alternative pathways to address the concept, challenge, or scenario?
4. Values and consequences
What internally held values will you evaluate the decision against? While always staying in check with your “gut”, play out the scenarios. What are the intended and unintended possible consequences of this decision? How will the decision and consequences align with your larger values?
Don’t get into “analysis paralysis”. Follow the steps, dig appropriately deep, and then make the decision. A decision isn’t a life sentence but a manner of moving forward. You can course correct in the future. Failure to actually make the decision, once informed, can be a fatal flaw.
6. Review and refine
Take a periodic review of the decision. Did the assumptions play out? What unintended consequences did you encounter? How might you refine your decision/approach based on newly available information? A decision isn’t a death sentence…. You can always refine and tweak as you move forward. Success is rarely a linear process.
I was recently at a Jeep event with challenging trails and complicated obstacles. I saw this bumper sticker in the Jeep in front of me right as we were about to embark on a challenging aspect of the course.
My brain went into action leading my consciousness to the reference from the movie “the Hangover”, and I laughed out loud. Yes, the Jeep in front of me is about to engage in a potentially dangerous activity that has risks. But … did they die? Nope!
All meaningful decisions require action and most won’t lead to death. Informed decision making is a discipline in making wiser and more calculated risks. The discipline we employ in the process of connecting honesty and truth can regenerate your power, reduce anxiety, enhance confidence, and align your values.