Friday, October 13, 2006

Take on Tetlock: Everyone's a framer

In “Everyone’s an Expert”, Phil Tetlock (Berkeley-Columbia EMBA Organizational Behavior prof., Genius Grant recipient and a fellow Canadian!!) argues that pundits and experts generally cannot predict the future in areas they study any better than the rest of us. Often these “hedgehog” types of personalities who try to stress one big idea or concept upon the rest of use succeed in doing so more by their overconfidence rather than by their clarity of vision.

What I find most interesting about experts, particularly those who appear often in the media, is not whether they are right or wrong, but how they are able to successful frame the debate. The impact of their accuracy is second to their impact in making us see the world in their terms, and then either agree or disagree.

My favorite example of this is Thomas Friedman and his famous book “The World is Flat.” In his book he argues that technology-powered business is making the world “flat,” meaning that borders and time no longer confine global commerce. Anyone with an Internet-connection and an idea can now compete in the global economy, no matter where in the world he/she is located.

When I read his book I didn’t read anything that I myself have not experienced in my own professional life. Everyday I work with people from around the globe and sometimes I have more interaction with someone across the planet than I do with someone across the hall.
So is Friedman right? Are we in a new, unprecedented era of techno-globalism I don’t know… maybe. But just to debate the issue in his terms shows that he has succeed in his role of pundit.

What was genius about Friedman was not that he predicted some sort of new-world-order based on the Internet, but that he named and gave the concept a form. Now, simply saying “the world is flat” is a convenient shorthand for everything to do with globalization. I’m sure there are many people who have never read the book but go around talking about how flat their world is.

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