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Avoiding not even wrong syndrome

The phrase “It’s not even wrong” is arguably my favorite cliche. Granted, I’m not even sure that it qualifies as a cliche because it hasn’t really achieve mainstream status. In fact, it’s relatively unknown outside of scientific circles.

But I think it should be.

The origin of the phrase is usually attributed an Austrian theoretical physicist named Wolfgang Pauli who had a penchant for telling misguided peers, “That’s not only not right, it’s not even wrong!” Take a moment to let the context sink in. Realize that what he’s really saying is that certain ideas and intuitions are so malformed that they can’t be falsified. In laymen’s terms, they can’t even be proven wrong (or right for that matter).

While the implications of this are far reaching if you think it all the way through and apply it to even your most treasured beliefs and concepts, I’m writing about it here because of it’s implications to a marketer, analyst, and business executive.

I recently heard someone share a stat suggesting that even in this digital age the vast majority of marketing and business decisions are not made based on data. They are instead made on intuition, gut feeling, or appeals to authority (e.g. the dreaded “best practices” argument). More often than not these intuitions are – you guessed it – not even wrong. And worst of all, many of the folks making these decisions based on these unfalsifiable ideas don’t even realize how far off they truly are.

Take a moment to think about your approach to making decisions. Are your assertions testable? And if so, are you taking the steps to test them?

If the answer is no, it may be time to take a more scientific approach to your craft.

 

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    In business, you need to continually keep testing and revising initiatives. There is nothing wrong with having ideas based on a gut feeling or intuition. But before you act on these, do some research first. Are your competitors already doing this? Does something like this already exist? If you choose to test it out, track it and record the data so you can decide whether or not to continue.

    • hugoguzman

      It’s really not ok to go with gut feeling or intuition if said gut/intuition is unfalsifiable. As long an assertion is testable/falsifiable then its all good. Otherwise, it’s a no go.