The reasons for valuing and dismissing the opinions of individuals may vary from situation to situation, but invariably, one common truth will surface.
One of the first things you learn when announcing your intention to marry or share a pending birth is that everyone has an opinion. People will share their own personal secrets for a successful marriage or a happy baby. They will tell you to avoid going to bed angry and how to make sure your child isn't "that kid" who terrorizes everyone else. Everyone has an opinion.
In business, the same is true. Ask ten people what they think and, with no time wasted, you'll get nine answers and one person who doesn't want to be bothered. Of those nine voices, you'll find value with a couple and dismiss the rest. The reasons for valuing and dismissing may vary from situation to situation, but invariably, one common truth will surface.
We are all biased by our own personal experiences and views; in business, there are no agnostics. You can be an atheist, but you cannot opt out of a view. Those without a view are either nonessential to your process because they are not close enough to matter, or they are a deterrent to progress because they have decided to stay away from difficult processing and decision making.
You want people with opinions, but it's imperative you understand what motivates their position. Past experiences and future aspirations play an essential role in individual recommendations. Those empowered to fail and try again may be less reserved in making suggestions than those burned by the past. Likewise, those aiming to keep the status quo because it serves other interests may be more hesitant to push for change than those who are incentivized to deliver business growth, regardless of where it comes from.
As a business leader, it's not enough to just solicit the opinions of others. A true leader must assess people's opinions not only for what they are saying, but also for why those opinions were given by the individuals giving them. If you truly know the people you trust to give you counsel, then you will know their personal bias.
Decision making relies heavily on having all the necessary data at your disposal. One key piece of that is knowing the rationale for opinions offered. Without that, you are making choices based on an imperfect data set.
There's an old adage tossed around in life: "Consider the source." This is sage advice that can be the difference between making the right decision, and making a decision based on bias that exposes you to possible failure.
Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next.
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