A Portrait of the Data Quality Expert as a Young Idiot

April 18, 2009
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Once upon a time (and a very good time it was), there was a young data quality consultant that fancied himself an expert.

He went from client to client and project to project, all along espousing his expertise. He believed he was smarter than everyone else. He didn’t listen well – he simply waited for his turn to speak. He didn’t foster open communication without bias – he believed his ideas were the only ones of value. He didn’t seek mutual understanding on difficult issues – he bullied people until he got his way. He didn’t believe in the importance of the people involved in the project – he believed the project would be successful with or without them.

He was certain he was always right.

And he failed – many, many times.

In his excellent book How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer advocates paying attention to your inner disagreements…

Once upon a time (and a very good time it was), there was a young data quality consultant that fancied himself an expert.

He went from client to client and project to project, all along espousing his expertise. He believed he was smarter than everyone else. He didn’t listen well – he simply waited for his turn to speak. He didn’t foster open communication without bias – he believed his ideas were the only ones of value. He didn’t seek mutual understanding on difficult issues – he bullied people until he got his way. He didn’t believe in the importance of the people involved in the project – he believed the project would be successful with or without them.

He was certain he was always right.

And he failed – many, many times.

In his excellent book How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer advocates paying attention to your inner disagreements, becoming a student of your own errors, and avoiding the trap of certainty. When you are certain that you’re right, you stop considering the possibility that you might be wrong.

James Joyce wrote that “mistakes are the portals of discovery,” and T.S. Eliot wrote that “we must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”

Once upon a time, there was a young data quality consultant that realized he was an idiot – and a very good time it was.

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