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Science is a Tool, not a Crutch

As an analyst, it is tempting to advise others to just follow my recommendations. After all, I'm the expert.

But that's too glib. The role of an analyst is to ensure managers/leaders have enough to go on to make informed decisions in the context that decision must be made in.

Merely trusting experts is impossible, if not irresponsible, in most instances. There are experts on every side of an issue. Right now, inflation is either the result of short-term demand/supply imbalances or the long-term result of an explosive money supply. or something else. Which is right?

Even in hindsight we may not come to consensus. Whether Keynesian economics helped or hindered recovery from the Great Depression is still subject to debate.

When leaders say they are making decisions based on science or analytics, quite often they have simply found an expert that supports their preconceived notions while they ignore other perspectives.

That's unavoidable in many situations. There just isn't enough time, but it has a big downside. It limits a leader's room to change course or even to acknowledge there was another way to look at the situation at all.

Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to matter in political decision making. There will always be a constituency to support one interpretation and actions over another. So, you can have a successful career never changing your mind about anything.

You hear politicians talk about political cycles. There will be times the preponderance of the electorate believes this or believes that. So, it will be "our turn" soon enough. Viewing life this way means never having to question whether you were right.,

After all, when is the last time you heard a politician say something like "You know? I used to believe X, but I read this analysis. So, now I believe Y."

Business leaders enjoy a similar degree of cushion, but not as much.

If you're looking for more than affirmation in life, then you must ask "science" why it believes what it does and ask hard questions. "Science" often takes a narrower perspective than is required.

The right question for COVID was which courses of action would enhance the short- and long-term well-being of the American people? Instead, we made decisions and measured outcomes based on primarily on limited, short-term considerations.

That was safer and easier to explain, but it was an abdication of responsibility. We still haven't learned this lesson, but there may be some value in your stepping back to consider whether there's something in this point-of-view you can benefit from.


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