Does your organization have a good BS detector?

On his regular livestream, Scott Adams said he finally figured out that his expertise is detecting BS. That’s why he’s often right when against supposed experts.

I fancy myself as a good BS dectector, too, though orders of magnitude less prolific. For now.

I realized as he described his BS detecting abilities that BS detecting is a function that organizations can benefit from and often lack.

Organizations have a tendency to silence dissent. I’ve seen that in companies, non-profits, education and government. It even occurs in non-hierarchical environments in the form of groupthink.

The obvious reason dissent is silenced is that leaders don’t like it.

A more subtle reason dissent is silenced is that when allowed, it’s tough to separate the wheat from the chaff and it’s mostly chaff. Everyone’s a critic.

That’s where a good BS detector can come in handy.

Dissent tends to follow a Pareto (80/20 rule) distribution, where 80% is chaff and 20% could be useful. That is, that 20% might come back and bite the organization in the butt and dissenters will go on the evening news and tell the world how they tried to sound the alarm, if only the leaders had listened.

Good BS detectors can help find that 20% that the organization should think about.

Good BS detectors can also help sniff out the leaders’ own BS, which helps make the leaders’ messages even more battle tested and convincing.

At the start of the pandemic, good BS detectors sniffed out early that the WHO’s guidance on mask usage was BS. Adams was one. I also was early to the game on that one.

I think BS detectors could be useful on boards of organizations and in government. But, is not limited to those higher level functions.

I used my BS detecting skills to make a couple of internal company applications that I was responsible for, better and more successful, by sorting through feedback –which was mostly BS — and talking to people to cut through their BS to get to the true heart of their complaints.

A BS detector doesn’t have to be a person. It can also just be an activity, like brainstorming. “Okay, let’s turn on our BS detectors. What BS will people sniff out of this?” Just granting the permission to detect BS will let lots of it be detected and help overcome groupthink.

In the pandemic, it’s not apparent to me that government leaders have good BS detectors and that makes them look foolish.


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