Wisdom and ignorance, Part 5: Knowing where you stand.

Last week we concluded our observations on leadership with a statement on relationship. To restate it: The only way to really know where you really stand in the market is to have an independent third party analyze the discussion. For years, that role has been filled by industry analysts and the media.

Now I know that a lot of marketing executives, especially in larger companies, will disagree with that statement. There is a basic belief within many companies that their knowledge of the market is better than anyone else. My answer to that is: See the previous post. No one likes to believe they are wrong, but history shows us that smart people always have someone to provide a different perspective. When you think you have all the answers, life jumps up and bites your head off.

For example, look at the Iraq war. For eight years, the Clinton administration had intelligence reports that Iraq was building up an arsenal of illegal weapons. It was common "conventional wisdom" that something had to be done. When the Bush administration came in, it inherited that same information and maintained the same "conventional wisdom." The only difference was, they acted on it. There were third-party, minority opinions that pointed out that the weapon technology involved had a very short shelf life and could not be stored indefinitely. Both administrations chose to ignore those opinions. We've seen the result of that ignorance.

Conventional wisdom is a great topic of discussion around the water cooler, but it can be devastating to employ as a strategy. Yet, that seems to be the strategic model of corporate communication now.

Independent analysts and journalists have a mandate to seek out perspective that can justify, modify or invalidate according to their ability in investigate, but to be valuable, they have to have the freedom to do the investigation. The financial model that created that freedom, however, has been under assault from all sides of late. The lack of barriers to disseminate inaccurate, if not biased information on the Internet, shrinking advertising budgets, cost of maintaining qualified reporting staffs and an overall distrust of the media's loyalties (caused primarily by a lack of understanding of how journalism works) contributes to the assault.

We are in a state of crisis far beyond the economy, world turmoil, and global environment. At a point where we have the technology to turn is into a unified "village," our use of that technology is turning the world into fiefdoms within every shrinking kingdoms. We need to turn this around folks. The question is how.

Next: Maybe the communists were right.