Friday, March 27, 2009
The tyranny of experts.
Nicholas Kristof had an op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times that is worth spending a few minutes with. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/opinion/26Kristof.html?_r=1
The piece was called "Learning How to Think" and it begins like this: "Ever wonder how financial experts could lead the world over the economic cliff? One explanation is that so-called experts turn out to be, in many situations, a stunningly poor source of expertise."
Kristof, of course, is talking about the GEM (Global Economic Meltdown) whereas I find relevance to the advertising industry. What's happened, I am speaking in broad strokes here, is that rather than applying common-sense and gut to our issues, we have turned to experts (or focus groups) to tell us what to do.
Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley studied over two decades some 82,000 predictions by 284 experts. It turns out the experts' predictions were only a tiny bit better than random. As Kristof writes, "the equivalent of a chimpanzee throwing darts at a board."
No wonder our whole industry is depressed.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 7:17 AM