It is very easy for people and organisations to start accepting judgements as facts, thus simplifying a complex world. Whenever this happens, the organisation’s ability to discuss and learn about the reality of its environment diminishes.
“False facts are highly injurous to the process of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness”
Charles Darwin’s quote is as relevant for business as for science. False facts are most easily generated when we start thinking that our views are facts. The fact of an unsuccessful market entry is rapidly generalised to a view that “we are no good at entering new markets”.
If everyone recognises this generalisation as a view, a judgement, an assumption, it not only does little harm, it stimulates thought and discussion about when it applies and why.
The danger is that the distinction between facts and views is lost, and the assumption that “we are no good at entering new markets” enters the culture as a false fact. As a fact, it is impervious to challenge and it gets rolled out by old timers to throttle new ventures at birth.
Avoiding the pitfall of false facts takes the mental discipline to publicly label every assertion as a fact or a judgement and maintain this distinction over time. This thinking habit is fertile ground to create a culture of open and constructive dialogue – as Darwin noted, assumptions encourage debate where false facts close it down.