On Acurracy and Bullshit
Accuracy and Bullshit are not in opposition. I remember exactly when I had this realization: after being locked in a meeting room for a week with our VP of Product. It was a very, very long week.
We found out when fine-tuning our message to different audiences. And since this was conceived on a management meeting1, of course, it’s a plane and of course, it has quadrants.
It immediately became part of our internal communication and “A/B quadrant” and “A/B testing” was used a lot2.
This is where all communication starts by default. Unless an extra effort is put in, people run with whatever their brain remembers. Since it has some correlation with reality, it’s useful and sufficient for most communication.
When talking about science or engineering, extra precision is warranted. Since missing a semicolon can lead to ineligible sentences, people put extra effort into precise wording.
For other people, this is mostly known as “nitpicking” or “annoying”.
The salesperson approach to accuracy is directional and a lot of bullshit will go in since it’s the job. This is as cognitively taxing as the engineering precision, just the effort is spent differently.
Listeners are convinced, dizzy, or annoyed depending on the execution.
The best of both worlds are combined in executives (and politicians). A lot of their communication is magically combining accuracy with bullshit. It’s the magic of Steve Jobs' “Just avoid holding it that way” line.
I often see recipients in a state of mild hypnosis. There is something in you that knows something is utterly wrong, but you can’t pinpoint why. All the individual facts make sense, but they don’t add up in some way that’s hard to pinpoint. Mental breakdown may be imminent.
It’s called bullshit when someone else does it. But now go re-read the article and replace “bullshit” with “persuasion”.
Thanks to Emmanuel for surviving in a meeting room.
Published in Essays and tagged corporations • startups