There is a lot of discussion of fake news these days. Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship. A lot of people follow the “fake it till you make it code”. I think it invites trouble. There is a big difference between selling a vision and selling bunk. With Theranos and others in the entrepreneurial world getting a big comeuppance, it’s something to consider. Lending Club, Zenefits, and others on the list of famous companies that generated a lot of publicity who faked it create a perception that casts a shadow on everyone.
It’s not that you should be brutally honest and show the underbelly of everything. But, you shouldn’t lead someone astray. There is a difference.
Yesterday, President Elect Trump called out CNN for publishing fake news. Sometimes fake news is a matter of framing and opinion. Perhaps you don’t believe something, see an article that counters that belief and say it is fake. But, other times, fake news really is fake. The news CNN published wasn’t journalism. It was more like being a stenographer. No critical thought. This is where following the herd gets you run off a cliff.
One of the hardest things to do is combat your own bias. Even analyzing companies, you have to recognize your own bias and try and set it aside. At the same time, you have to run down the numbers. You have to talk to customers. You have to talk to vendors. You have to speak with “market experts” to try and get a real picture of what is happening-and more importantly, develop a thesis in your head about where it can go.
We are overloaded with all kinds of information seeking our attention these days. Our attention is constantly being whipsawed. That dilutes focus. It dilutes contemplation. It creates fear and nervousness. That causes us to make bad decisions and even when confronted with the correct information if it doesn’t align with our biases we reject it.
Publicists, lawyers and journalists are trained to frame issues to try and persuade us. The first step in not being persuaded is recognizing what they are doing. Similarly, when entrepreneurs pitch, they are persuading us. The first step in actively listening is to try and decipher if what they are saying is actually happening, will happen, or if it’s just fake news.