Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Billy's Fortieth Law: Belief is stronger than logic.

One person with a belief is equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.
John Stuart Mill

I consider myself to be a rational and open minded individual.  I love to investigate and to make rational decisions based on the current facts available.  I see many people who have no rationale for their beliefs, and often use false logic to come to the wildest of conclusions.  Some of these are harmless, and others are potentially dangerous. 
According to VOX,” Americans ages 18 to 29 are more likely to oppose mandatory childhood vaccination and say vaccines can cause autism, according to a new survey.”  This runs against the majority of scientific belief.  But here is my point.  Another study demonstrated that when logical arguments are applied to these beliefs, those holding the belief hold it even more strongly.
So, what has this got to do with business…you may ask?  Understanding your customers’ beliefs is an essential part of consumer psychology and behaviour. Understanding your employees’ beliefs forms an important part of your corporate culture and customer experience. Unfortunately, belief is not rational.  People often feel that the truth shouldn’t get in the way of promoting their own beliefs. 
Suppose you lead an enterprise, and the employees believes “the company does not care about them, they just care about profits.”  The belief affects behaviour.  Your employees might take the following stand:  The Company doesn’t care about me, therefore I needn’t care about the company, the customers or my performance.  If you point out the employees, just how good they have it.  (Or as one boss of mine told me “You’re lucky to have a job!”) You will not change the belief, you may increase the strength of the belief and worsen behaviour.
In marketing, belief has a huge impact on consumer decision and the image your enterprise reflects to the world.  Changing beliefs is tough.  Rational arguments are rarely effective, and as I pointed out earlier, can make positions recalcitrant. 
When internally held beliefs are hurting your company, determine why people believe them.  Acknowledge the problem, and clarify any misunderstandings or down right lies.  Don’t over sell.  If people don’t feel valued, ask them why, and ask them to provide examples.  There may be some veracity in their point of view. 
The public is trickier.  Some people won’t change their minds.  All you can do is attempt to engage fairly and rationally, without being argumentative.  In the example of vaccinations, if I were a pharmaceutical company I would point out the ongoing nature of review and evaluation of my products.  This does not contradict the possibility of danger, but ensures the company is vigilant to such possibilities.  The worst thing to do is to make statements about the testing.  It only looks like justification and not explanation. 
It amazes me how often McDonalds is the target for everything from obesity to labour conditions.  In Vancouver a McDonalds was targeted to protest a "training wage".  This was a rate lower than the minimum wage to encourage employers to hire and provide experience to those without work experience. The McDonalds in question didn't even use the training wage. When this was pointed out to the activists in question, they were unapologetic saying that it didn't matter whether they were using it or not...they had the right to protest. 
To quote Taylor Swift. “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.”  Unfortunately, it is difficult in the public arena to shake it off.
Belief is strong…faith is strong.  Whether belief in God, an economic system, a company or your local hockey team, peoples strongly held beliefs invoke strong reactions.  These are a reality every business owner and manager must understand and accept.

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