This is a part of quotes and thoughts that attracted my attention, while reading the “The Halo Effect …and the Eight Other Business Delusions that Deceive Managers” by Phil Rosenzweig (Free Press, 2014).
It’s useful to make the distinction between reports and stories. A report is above all responsible for providing the facts, without manipulation or interpretation. If the accounts about Lego and WH Smith are meant to be reports – which presumably they are, since they’re written by reporters – then words like stray or drift are problematic. Stories, on the other hand, are a way that people try to make sense of their lives and their experiences in the world. The test of a good story isn’t its responsibility to the facts as much as its ability to provide a satisfying explanation of events. As stories, the news accounts about Lego and WH Smith work just fine. In a few paragraphs, the reader learns of the problem (sales and profits are down), gets a plausible explanation (the company lost its direction), and learns a lesson (don’t stray, focus on the core). There’s a neat end with a clean resolution. No threads are left hanging. Readers go away satisfied.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with stories, provided we understand that’s what we have before us. More insidious, however, are stories that are dressed up to look like science. They take the form of science and claim to have the authority of science, but they miss the real rigor and logic of science. They’re better described as pseudo-science.