Any objectivity anymore?

There are UK politicians running around the broadcast studios.  Those advocating a “No Deal” outcome to the current Brexit negotiations are using all their skills to polish gravel in the hope of turning it into diamonds.  Debate has been debased to a frightening degree.

In my career, I spent quite some time in the analysis business.  That’s the world of gathering data and crunching it with the aim of trying to figure out what going on in the “real” world.  This process is essential if the aim is to continually improve something.  Just to over simplify, as is the fashion of the moment, analysis can be broken down into two approaches.

One approach is to collect wide-ranging data and explore it, as best you can and try to distil the story that it’s trying to tell.  It’s to illuminate and discover what is contained within data.  This unbiased objective approach can be more difficult than one might imagine.  It’s the scientific method.  It’s open to peer review and open debate.

The other approach is to start with a set of beliefs or theories.  Bit like an imaginary pulp fiction police detective with a hunch.  Then to dig into the data to see if your preconceived idea can be proven or not.  If not keep quiet or in the extreme case, choose the methods and data that ensures your case is proven.

It’s this second case that seems to be most often applied to Brexit.  Anyone who scrutinises Brexit in an open and objective way is often labelled a saboteur, traitor or mutineer.  The quality of the critical debate we are having is screwed by inflammatory name-calling and blind religious devotion to beliefs and theories.

It’s not unusual for people who take the first approach to find it hard going.  It takes considerable skills of persuasion to demonstrate that an unpopular result is true.  Business books are full of references to a performance-based approach.  Because of the phenomena I’ve described above I’d recommend that a politician or CEO’s reward is never solely based on a measure of “performance”.

Parliament has shown repeatedly that UK politicians are brilliant at deciding to run down rabbit holes.  Wouldn’t it be so much better if a degree of thoughtful objectivity could shine through once or twice.   If a “No Deal” Brexit outcome happens then objectivity has gone out of the window.

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