Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Not quite the 9 o’clock News

Monday, October 14th, 2013

I’m interested in all aspects of communication but this story really takes some beating.  Leslie Grange, a signer for deaf viewers on the BBC news, appears to have decided that merely reporting the news was a little dull, so to brighten the days of her deaf viewers she started spicing up the stories.  Here are a few examples:-

“Questions started to be raised around the time of the Japanese earthquake when several viewers emailed us to complain about our reports of radioactive zombies sighted near the nuclear reactor. We dismissed them as some sort of organised hoax.”

“However, when there were similar numbers getting in touch to ask if Rebekah Brooks was really in trouble for raping a monkey, and why the BBC was claiming that, as a special summer treat, the Prime Minister had told the nation’s teenagers they didn’t have to pay for anything any more, we realised something was wrong.”

“I would like to apologise to everyone in the deaf community,” Grange told reporters today, “though when I had Cameron tell Obama “your statesmen-like profile leaves my willy plump” – well, frankly I don’t think that is so very far from the truth.”

We tend to accept that information coming from authoritative sources is correct and accurate, and it is only once it crosses a certain threshold that we question it, but perhaps we ought to ask more often “How do I know this is true?”  Within a company it is not unusual for things to be accepted as correct because everyone is repeating them, rather than actually going to the source data.  Group think is a dangerous basis for making decisions. 

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

I am, or at least I once was, an accountant, and I always had a slightly jaundiced view of the figures we produced which ‘proved’ a case.  I always felt that you could make figures argue almost any way you chose.  As the following story illustrates, I am not alone in this feeling:-

There once was a business owner who was interviewing people for a division manager position. He decided to select the individual that could answer the question “How much is 2+2?”

The engineer pulled out his slide rule and shuffled it back and forth, and finally announced, “It lies between 3.98 and 4.02“.
The mathematician said, “In two hours I can demonstrate it equals 4 with the following short proof.”
The physicist declared, “It’s in the magnitude of 1×101.”
The logician paused for a long while and then said, “This problem is solvable.”
The social worker said, “I don’t know the answer, but I a glad that we discussed this important question.”
The attorney stated, “In the case of Svenson vs. the State, 2+2 was declared to be 4.”
The trader asked, “Are you buying or selling?”
The accountant looked at the business owner, then got out of his chair, went to see if anyone was listening at the door and shut the curtains. Then he returned to the business owner, leaned across the desk and said in a low voice, “What would you like it to be?”

So that and the fact that Maths was never my strongest suit meant that I am a little sceptical of statistics, but don’t they sound SO convincing..?!  “9 out of 10 women agree that Magicreem made them look 10 years younger” the advert boldly proclaims, Then down below in tiny writing you read that they asked 127 people.

All this preamble to shed a little mathematical backup to my native doubt.  A common example involves the mythical paedophile-spotting device, it hunts down and kills people that it identifies as paedophiles with a 99% success rate and a 99% chance at properly identifying a innocent person correctly. One would assume that if, out of population of 1 million people, 100 of whom are paedophiles the box identifies a person as a paedophile, there is a 99% chance it’s correct. In reality, it’s a lot closer to 1%. The reason being that the box falsely killed 1% of non-paedophile (9,999 people), as well as correctly killing for 99% of real terrorists (99 people).

Facts and data a very important in helping us make good decisions, but there is always room for good old fashion common sense and instinct. 

The Power of Leaders telling the Truth

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

As previously admitted, I’m a Quins fan and I spent a miserable afternoon this Sunday shivering on a touchline in freezing temperatures to watch my team play a dreadful game against their most dangerous rivals.  Saracens had just nudged us off top place in the league and we needed to to beat them in order to reclaim the slot we have held for the best part of two seasons.  This was our first game in their brand new stadium and it was clear from the start they were really up for it.  They seemed sharper, faster, and more dangerous.  Even though at at halftime we were still in the game in wasn’t long before we gave away a try and you knew that the game was as good as over.  In a single game we went from being shoe-ins for a top two place and a home semi-final to wondering whether we’d make the play-offs!

So why is any of this relevant to a non-rugby fan?  I was fascinated to hear what their coach had to say after the game.  We are so used to people putting a brave face of failure or trying to somehow mitigate its impact by talking about the things that went well, or perhaps explaining why someone/something else was really at fault.  In this video, he simply and powerfully tells the truth.  His comments are balanced, neutral and honest.  He doesn’t seek to reduce the consequences of failure or slump into doom and gloom.  He just says that we let ourselves down and now have a much harder task getting where we want to get to.  I’ll be fascinated to see how the team respond in their must win fixture against Gloucester on Friday.  I’ll also be interested to see who he picks, the ‘junior’ players who in the weeks before won us the LV cup or the legends who have won so many international caps.

If more leaders told the truth to their people in simple, clear language I think we might see much better performances.  Conor’s bywords are “Stick to our processes and procedures and the results will look after themselves”.  As a club, Harlequins know what brand of rugby they want to play and you can see everyone in all the squads playing the same way.  This is where values and culture really pay-off, when they are clear, strong and shared.  Everyone there know what ‘good’ looks like.  It is a real lesson for the corporate world where so often they are just words on a poster or in a staff handbook.

“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:”  Rudyard Kipling

Points of View…. or… The Camera Doesn’t Lie?

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Regular readers will remember that I have spoken quite often about how the truth is much less clear than people commonly think.  We all experience things differently, and to some extent we all inhabit our own individual universes, which we are naturally the centre of.  This is one reason why people have arguments, and why witnesses in court often report different versions of the main event.  We all make certain assumptions, and have differing values and ‘no go’ areas.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I recently had to watch some CCTV footage and try and decide what was happening, and who, if anyone, was the injured party.  I obviously won’t go into the details but individually both versions were plausible.  Clearly, the ‘truth’ was a more complex amalgam of both stories.   In this episode, the camera was just another spectator, and certainly not the recorder of the ‘truth’ either. 

The thing is, in families, relationships and companies, there are all these people, all with points-of-view and feelings, all in a hurry, all wanting what they want and merrily pursuing their own ‘business’, but from time-to-time, there is inevitability a breakdown.  If we assume that there is only one ‘truth’ and that we are the sole owner of that then there is nowhere for the other parties to go.  You have to take the time to find out what the other person experienced and compare and contrast it  your own and then allow that the other person’s view is as valid as yours.  Try to be clear about the facts, and then discuss the interpretation.  It is a lot of work, but this work is really an investment in the relationship.

“No matter what our achievements might be, we think well of ourselves only in rare moments. We need people to bear witness against our inner judge, who keeps book on our shortcomings and transgressions. We need people to convince us that we are not as bad as we think we are.”   Eric Hoffer

I’m a Celebrity… you can see me!

Friday, November 21st, 2008

About this time of year I am afraid that Cooke Towers impressive media suite is taken over by gaffawing women who cackle with glee as minor ‘celebs’ are tortured for the nation’s entertainment with kangaroo testicles and critters that bite.  I can not pretend not to be rapidly drawn into these so called reality TV shows as I love watching people behave as they do.

The thing that seems so clear to me this year is that people are so very transparent and that the public respond better to those who they feel are being genuine, even if they are being genuinely stupid!  People who play games are judged and tortured for the viewers’ entertainment. 

I know that this is far removed from real life in so many ways but I think our desire to have people ‘be themselves’ is a very deep one, and so too is our ability to see through manoeuvrings.   The thing is, in the world of work, we often don’t get any real choice about who tells us to do what, but we do control how much of ourselves we give in response to them.  Real leaders don’t try to manoeuvre people, despite office politics.  They do what they believe to be right; they tell the truth as they see it and  say how they feel.  We may not like or even agree with these messages but we will be inclined to trust them. 

So rule number 1 of authentic leadership is “Don’t be clever, be true”


“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”  Mark Twain

“Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it.”  Mark Twain

“A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”  William Blake

Stronger in the broken place

Friday, May 16th, 2008

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that our water bed had sprung a leak, and some of the ‘fun’ we have had in dealing with it. So having mopped up and found that we had a tiny split in the vinyl, I slapped on the ever present universal remedy… duct tape, and called Mr Waterbed. “No problem! I’ll pop a repair kit in the post and it will be as good as new. In fact it will be stronger than ever.” So today it arrives and I do the repair. Job done!

However, it is an interesting idea that; I remember a doctor telling me when I broke my wrist that the bone would be stronger than before. So often once things have been broken and repaired it is a weak spot. It is interesting to think about your relationships in this light. Sometimes when there is a breakdown, it is followed by a break through and the relationship moves to a new high place. Other times, trust is damaged and you are always scanning for evidence that it might happen again.

I wonder what make the difference? I think perhaps it is down to how much truth is told, and how much fresh insight is gained. If as a result of the problem you completely explore the circumstances and learn more about each other, perhaps you feel safer and more close. Where it is patched up then it is always fragile. It takes courage to go in to those risky and dark places that gave rise to the breakdown in the first palace, but if you don’t, then I suspect it is left permanently damaged and everyone just pretends that it is okay.

What do you think?

“Words and hearts should be handled with care for words when spoken and hearts when broken are the hardest things to repair.”

Two truths

Friday, April 25th, 2008


Buddhism states that there are always two truths, the personal truth and the absolute spiritual truth. I would suggest that in this world, we are not likely to have much experience with the latter. However, I think that the former is also worthy of further thought. The thing is, when we use the word “truth”, we mean that we are not consciously distorting our knowledge and understanding. Let us suppose that we are individuals of high integrity, and that we are not being ‘economical’ with our truths. However, that is all we can offer, our truth.

This represents the sum of the knowledge and understanding that we have at this moment; tomorrow it may change as we learn more or interpret what we know differently. Of course, this is true for each person. So if you have two entirely honest people, who wish to be totally candid with each other, at the very best all they can do is swap their own version of their current truths. This process is further diminished by the fact we use language differently and can easily misconstrue what another has said. Is it any wonder that people can argue about who is telling the truth? I think it is all together more remarkable that we ever agree!

Who is telling the truth about what is happening in the Middle East the Islamic Jihadist or the right-wing American Christian fundamentalist?

I think the truth is a destination that we are unlikely to reach in this life time. The best we can offer each other is our open understanding, a little humility and a good listening. So if you find yourself in conflict today, try listening a little longer, questioning a little better and doing so with an open heart.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” Albert Einstein

“There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.” Alfred North Whitehead




  1. The Whole Truth (an earlier blog)