Trump won. Against all odds, against all polls, despite the naysaying from the experts – he won on the back of working class Americans and, more importantly, a populist Zeitgeist that he clearly understood better than Hilary ever did. Brazn is a technology company – not a geo-political think tank so I am not going to go into a detailed analysis of why Trump won (silent majority, anti-establishment, invisible to polls blah blah), or why Hilary lost (she was missing the Bern, e-mails blah blah).

Instead, let’s focus on a certain aspect of this insane election that I think holds much relevance to companies in general – how the “experts” got it all wrong, and what lessons we can draw on this.

I will not lie – I too was beguiled by the messages of the media churned out by the machinations of the Clinton campaign, even as a non-American bystander. On late show after late show (which form most of my short-attention-span consumption on Youtube), the caricature of Trump was trotted out like a roasted suckling pig at a five star Chinese restaurant.

But more than that – was the endless parade of experts that were brought out that kept saying Trump was losing, polls were showing Clinton in the lead. How did it get so wrong and what can we learn from it as a technology business?

Lesson - Be Wary of the Expert

As I think back (and hindsight is 20/20 as they say), I get reminded of an incident in a meeting a few years back. We were in a meeting with a Telco, and I was promptly introduced as a “Technology Expert”. I was highly uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be called an expert – my whole body rebelled against it. At the time, I could not quite articulate why I felt like that – maybe a false sense of modesty perhaps?

This election showed me why.

If anyone is labeled an “Expert”, it means the following things in my books;

  1. They have a wealth of history that they can draw upon to make conclusions.
  2. They then draw upon that knowledge and fit the current situation into that context.
  3. Finally – they give you convenient answers based on actions taken in the past that worked.

Here’s the problem – this might have been valuable in the past – but we live in an age of disruption. Past rules don’t apply anymore. Take this quote:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
– George Santanaya

Here is my spin on it – this applies to both mistakes and successes. It’s easy to apply this to past mistakes (just don’t do the same damn thing again!). But, equally, just because something worked in the past – don’t repeat it. Don’t assume that it will work again.

That’s what happened in the election – traditional media relied on old methods of thinking, old polling methods, old assumptions and predicted a 90% plus chance of Hilary winning. They were wrong. I was wrong to believe that.

Not everyone was wrong. Scott Adams called it. Michael Moore called it too. They were not political “experts” – one is a cartoonist and the other, a documentary director.

So much for experts.

Takeaway – Be a Collaborator not an Expert

This is an age of disruption. Things move fast. Situations move fast. It’s virtually a war zone in the world of business and enterprise. And now we have a glaring example of this. Instead of sitting down, discussing and viewing things from all perspectives from the eyes of many people – everything was channeled through a single lens – the lens of the media, the lens of the Clinton campaign.

And it was wrong.

Instead – be wary of experts that say they know a certain field – or know how to do things and had previous successes and would repeat that. Instead – adopt humility. Adopt collaboration. Sit and throw ideas back and forth with your clients. Be not afraid to be wrong. Admit when you are wrong. Admit when there is a better idea that is not yours, or from your company. Admit that the approach might be wrong. Be willing to change the course.

On the other side of the fence – do not engage clients / vendors / partners that either are not willing to listen to you, or expecting you to spoon feed all the solutions to them without their contribution. Even if the relationship works – the solutions will not stand a high chance.

Up Next

In part 2 of this post – I want to talk about lies, damned lies and statistic and how data let everyone down. This election is a major dent in the Big Data bubble – but is not the death of data by any means:

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
– Popularized by Mark Twain