Bursting the “truth” bubble

Perception versus reality

I’ve recently become more and more aware of situations in which people, any people, are trying to interpret the truth to get their way. This may be that they want to be proven right, that they want a larger/smaller share of something, or they just want to save face. No doubt this has been going on for centuries, but it appears to become more blatant than ever. It just might be I’m a big naïve idiot. Who knows?

My beef is with people who are confidently predicting a certain outcome, are confronted with another outcome, and they spin their way out of the situation (best case) or force the final outcome to be different from how it would have been (worse). The worst among them load the dice to begin with.

It’s frustrating for a straight-forward person like myself because it becomes very difficult to anticipate outcomes.

And it’s all about perception versus reality. People create a perception, then force reality one way or another to align with perception. Or they manipulate perception in such a way that it appears for all intents and purposes as if they are right.

Let’s be clear, I have no particular axe to grind here. I’m just very aware of a number of significant risks that are being introduced by this way of reporting reality in the corporate context. Let’s look at an example.

When technically right is not right at all

Take a typical form over substance discussion in any organization required to report their financial statements. Especially quoted organizations will interpret the applicable rules as much as possible to their advantage. This is, of course, technically correct. But some of these positions will significantly misrepresent the reality of the organization. Any well executed due diligence exercise would require additional information to be provided to people considering a purchase of the organization. Ask yourself the question: is such reporting right?

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

Don’t embellish. Don’t willfully forget. Don’t lie. And don’t try to get your way if what is real is not what you want it to be. Because that is the sure way to getting people hurt. No one in his right mind would tell another person about to jump into a pool that the water is more than 10 feet deep if they know it barely goes down 1 foot. That is no longer misrepresentation, that’s murder. However, both corporates and quite often politicians get away with murder because they arrive at spinning the tale in just the right direction.

You don’t find spin doctors on Main Street

The current economic reality for the US and Europe is one of survival. While we may not formally be in a recession, we are not seeing job growth as required. News bulletins regularly inform us of plant closings and people made redundant. It’s very difficult out there, right now, for a lot of people. Most of them don’t have degrees, although some of them have. None of them has a spin doctor at the ready to spin the situation to their advantage.

An appeal for transparancy

Given that, perhaps it’s time to aim for more transparancy and less complexity. While I fully understand the drivers which make organizations do what they do in their continuous combat for access to funding and resources, this behaviour of denial of reality creates a bubble of its own. It inflates perception of organizations or of political reality in such a way that is sure to lead to collapse. If that is the road you, as a person, chose to take, be aware of the consequences. When the bubble bursts, it’s likely the proverbial soap suds will spill on us all.