March 11, 2020

Powerpinions Kill Decision Making

Let me coin a word: powerpinion. A powerpinion is an opinion of a powerful person on a subject he lacks necessary knowledge of. Often, a powerpinion is delivered through a Power Point presentation.

Powerpinions can completely kill the decision making skills of an organization. It can go so far, that a technical decision can be taken that is obviously wrong to just about any expert on the subject.

So, how to avoid this? Perhaps the following:
  • If you are a person with power (formal or informal), please always listen very carefully to those with more knowledge than you on the subject matter.
  • Read! Study! Get the knowledge you need before having opinions on something.
  • Challenge powerpinions! Ask about the facts. What is that opinion based on? Do you have a reference to that fact? Did we ask the experts? Who is the expert on this in our organization? Can external experts be used?
  • Written communication may help. Powerpinions are often delivered orally accompanied with hard-to-interpret Power Point slides that are soon forgotten. If opinions are recorded and can be referenced in the future, it likely makes people more hesitant to have opinions om subjects they lack knowledge in.
  • Be careful with topics that seem simple at first, but are not. Cryptography is one example. Those who know the most realize how little they really know, but those who know a little, think they know it all.
Anything else? Comments are appreciated. There is probably relevant research in the area that would be interesting to consume.

Added 2023-03-06. Link to HIPPO effect text: