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Ideas Must Be Tested, So Arm Yourself With Evidence

I think if you have a culture where dissent is difficult or disagreement is difficult you’ve got a big problem because any organization is going to make mistakes and those mistakes need to be fixed as quickly as possible. So one way or another you’re going to have to find a way where mistakes are revealed, exposed and then corrected. 

If you don’t have a culture where that can happen another approach is to try and get evidence and I think evidence is really important.  The reason why medicine has advanced so far and life expectancy has advanced so far is because quite simply it’s not that doctors are smarter than the rest of us or maybe they are a little bit smarter than the rest of us.  It’s because in medicine we’ve got this system, all these systems for testing ideas and actually testing whether putting leeches on somebody’s skin actually makes them better.  It turns out not, but there was a time when everybody thought it did. 

So sometimes it’s not about changing the culture.  Sometimes the culture is something that is difficult to change.  Instead it’s about producing clear, crisp evidence that people can believe that this idea is working, this idea is not working, so if you can look for ways to present that then you have a strong argument.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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