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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your margin of error

In the world of polling and in the world of scientific research and statistical analyses, the term ‘margin of error’ is commonplace.

According to the online business dictionary, the margin of error is an analytical technique that accounts for the number of acceptable errors in an experiment. This number of acceptable errors helps us review results and then determine the level of accuracy of the experiment by taking this + or – margin of error into consideration.

On www.talkingpointsmemo.com the margin of error is explained as follows: “In public opinion surveying, the margin of error refers to the expected range of variation in a poll, if it were to be conducted multiple times under the same procedures. This is not necessarily indicative of a true result, but establishes a statistical average within which most polls will line up.”

If we make the leap to the world of business, the margin of error concept seems almost non-existing. In the world of business, measuring outcomes is valued so much higher than introspection, than pausing, than questioning oneself and others with the objective to gain additional insights and alternative perspectives and to discover possible group think and personal blind spots. This is just plain undervalued, in most organizations and by most leaders.

Questioning and self-doubt are considered a weakness much more so than a demonstration of an open-mind, an inquisitive nature, and a learning organism. If we continue to measure effectiveness solely or mostly by the ability to demonstrate strength and confidence we do effectiveness a huge disservice.

Whether you are in sales, in admin, in information technology, in marketing, in human resources, or in any other field, whether you are a leader or someone on the floor, chances are that you are pretty convinced of yourself. And wherever you are not, you are likely to do all you can to safe face by deploying self-defense and self-preservation mechanisms. Bottom line: We generally do not take a ‘personal margin of error’ into account. Most of us seem to do so when it comes to financial decisions, so why not translate this mindset to the world of business?

I ask you to apply the ‘margin of error’ to your own assumptions, to your thinking patterns, to your conclusions, and to your choices and actions. I am convinced it will increase collaboration, effectiveness, authenticity, and influence.

1 comment:

  1. You're correct, Carolien; too few politicians and leaders operate with a "margin of error" mindset. As Charles KImball said: "It is easier to know the truth than to seek the truth." You touch on two important leadership and organizational capacities in my book "Navigating Integrity . . ." - Authenticity and Dialog. Authenticity, or being real, includes reducing blindspots; dialog is the capacity to participate in "learning conversations" that improve group intelligence and decision-making. Thanks for your insights.