December 7, 2010
Don't Data Dump
In a blog posting at the Harvard Business Review online, Professor John Kotter offers advice on the art of persuasion. You make an argument or proposal and elicit a negative response. Should you answer by focusing on detailed data or should you give a simple, common-sense argument? He writes:
I've found that in most cases, people should argue with less data. When you're defending an idea, my research of what works in the real world suggests that you should respond in ways that are simple, straightforward, and honest. This may sound obvious, but I found that this principle is rarely employed. Rather, most people respond to a critical question by arguing against the reasoning of whoever asked the question. They offer all of the evidence they can think of, hoping to make their case overwhelming. They shoot at an attack sixteen times with bullets of data to make sure it is dead. But in so doing, they are arguing not on their own but on the naysayer's territory, opening themselves up to counter-attacks with each piece of evidence they dispense — and simultaneously putting other listeners to sleep!