In a recent interview with Bill Maher, on HBO’s Real-time, Astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, discussed a concept he referred to as the “three truths”; Personal truths, political truths and objective truths.
Truth Number One
He characterized personal truths as beliefs devoid of roots in credible fact or logic. Tyson asserted that personal truths are perspectives that fail the test of scientific reasoning. He argued that individuals cling to these beliefs, even when presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. One example of a personal truth is the belief that the earth is flat. While the science and research on this topic refute such an assertion, there are still scores of people who accept this postulate as accurate.
Truth Number Two
Tyson referred to the second set of truths as “political truths.” He postulated that these beliefs are inaccuracies repeated so often theybecome recognized and accepted as true. Examples of political truths include the belief that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, or that Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Truth Number Three
He characterized the third set of truths as the “objective truths” or beliefs that one can substantiate through objectivity, impartial science, facts and reasoning.
Why This Matters
Dr. Tyson argued that individuals are “entitled” to their personal truths. He makes the case that one should not attempt to strip these beliefs from the individuals who clings to them. He also asserted that political truths are beliefs supported by tribal echo chambers that reject ideas or perspectives coming from anyone who is not part of their tribe. Thus, trying to convince someone to abandon their personal or political truth is a pointless endeavor that will only lead to conflict and ill feelings.
What Are the Implications
Heeding Dr. Tyson’s perspective provides an opportunity for better interactions between leaders, their team members and their customers. It also aligns with the agile value of customer collaboration over contract negotiation. I had a personal experience that highlighted Tyson’s perspective and the power of customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
A Case Study
I hired a company to provide video production for my latest course on Agile Leadership. I selected this organization because it advertised the ability to record videos in two locations; one in San Francisco and one in NY. I had client meetings scheduled for NY around the time that I needed to record my videos, so I hired them intending to record in NY.
As the recording date drew nearer, I received an e-mail from my Client Representative reminding me to “plan” my trip to San Francisco. I responded that I wanted to record in NY. He informed me that the package I purchased only allowed me to record in San Francisco. I complained that there was no way I would have signed a contract to record in San Francisco when my customers were in NY. About an hour later, the company’s CEO called and told me not to worry. The video production would take place in their NY studio.
On the flight to NY, I opened the welcome package that the company sent to me. The package I purchased did in fact only support filming in San Francisco. I had two reactions:
The first was one of embarrassment because I didn’t pay close enough attention to the contract. The second reaction was a sense of appreciation and loyalty to the vendor.
This company embodied the belief that it was more important to ensure the customer had a good experience than it was to negotiate a contract. Because of this experience, it is unlikely that I will use a different vendor for video production.
After hearing Dr. Tyson’s interview, I realized that, in this example, I developed a personal; truth — one that told me I contracted to record in NY. The objective truth, however, was that this was not the case. Had the vendor attempted to strip me of my “personal reality” (by pointing to the contract) I would have likely dug in and accused the vendor of unfair practices. Because the company exhibited the agile value of customer collaboration over contract negotiation, however, they gained a cheerleader and a loyal customer who will refer potential clients to them.
Reflecting on Dr. Tyson’s interview also caused me to rethink my behavior as a leader. I cringed at the number of times I was guilty of attempting to strip an employee, a customer or a colleague of their personal or political truth.
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