Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Over at Scott Berkun's business blog, and listed as a "popular post" is an
essay, "How to
Detect Bullshit", that raises lots of valuable points. I disagree with
Berkun's opinion that we have an "irrational nature", but found his practical
advice, which comes in the form of four "tools" worth passing along. The tools
- Asking someone how he knows what he is claiming to be true,
- Asking someone for a counterargument for his position,
- Not allowing oneself to be intimidated or distracted by technical details or jargon one does not actually understand, and
- Being careful about whom one trusts.
Nevertheless, it can be helpful to see examples of how such a policy might be applied in practice. Here is part of what Berkun says about the third of these, in the form of an example and his commentary:
Our dynamic flow capacity matrix has unprecedented downtime resistance protocols.Berkun's broad point is correct: There will always be "bulls" in the fields of human knowledge and endeavor. It is up to ourselves to keep our shoes clean.
If you don't understand what the hell this means, err on your own side. Don't assume you're missing something: assume they are. They're either hiding something, communicating poorly, or don't themselves understand what they're talking about. BS deflating responses include:
- I refuse to accept this proposal until I, or someone I trust, fully understands it.
- Explain this in simpler terms I can understand (repeat if necessary).
- Break this into pieces you can verify, prove, compare, or demonstrate for me.
- Are you trying to say "our network server has a backup power supply?" If so, can you speak plainly next time?
5-10-12: Changed "technological" to "technical".