What 2016 taught us about public opinion

2016 was an eye-opening lesson especially for those who believed that major decisions revolved around data and facts. For many, it was a wake-up call in the most disastrous of ways. However, for a large number, it proved what we had long believed. Decisions are largely based on emotions and not as much on facts. It is thus of little surprise that advertisements no longer boast about the actual functionality of the products but on how it makes you stand out from the crowd.

Brexit and the more recent Trump election has only gone on to prove that emotions influence decisions to a much larger extent than hard facts. As an HR pro, you see examples of this everyday at the workplace. Managers who play on emotional aspects view much larger returns as compared to those who use data to explain decisions.

The two instances also tell us more about public opinion. Apart from voicing different opinions, publicly vs in private, it also goes to show that the masses may not always be right or wise. This is a lesson in crowd-sourcing. There has been a growing preference to crowd-source ideas. While this does has its own benefits, it is likely that what you get out of a crowd-sourcing exercise is largely junk. When you crowd source ideas, it is necessary to take care of sieving through and acting on ideas that truly make sense. This poses the challenge of going back on many ideas and explaining why it is that you decided not to implement them. Try telling someone that their idea doesn’t make sense and you’ll see them move throw the cycle of denial, anger and hopefully eventual acceptance.

Public opinion can be misleading, shortsighted and discomfort adverse. It is not always the way forward and is definitely a tool that must be exercised with caution.

How comfortable are you in letting majority/public opinion in influencing your decisions?

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