Stress testing our thinking
26 July 2016 Jim Harrison,
I was on my way to the Marketing Society summer party and happened to look across the street and see a simple inscription above a doorway.
“Facts Not Opinions”.
I was intrigued – and the Whisky Sours and inevitable chat about Brexit could wait – so I had more of a look at the Kirkaldy Testing Museum.
There’s something about David Kirkaldy and his obsession with testing materials and their strength that appeals to me. In a typically Victorian way he set out to right the wrongs he perceived in his own field of engineering.
Before David Kirkaldy and his vast pressure testing machine, engineers and architects used materials they believed to be strong enough to bear the loads that were placed on them. Most of the time it worked of course, just as it had for the Greeks, Romans and Normans but by now engineers were building vast great structures.
One was the rail Bridge over the River Tay which, as any fan of Scottish poetry will know, collapsed killing 75 people on the train that was passing over during as violent storm in 1879. The architect had ‘taken advice’ on wind loading (how to allow for the pressure of the elements on an exposed structure) but decided to not take account of it in his design.
Kirkaldy was delightfully intolerant of engineers who could even consider building a 2.75-mile-long bridge without any factual evidence of the strength of the materials they were using let alone the design they were using.
His Testing Works and the machines he built at Southwark Street established new safety standards and must have saved countless disasters and lives.
All perfectly summarised by the idea “Facts Not Opinions”.
Like “Thought For the Day” on the Today programme I suppose I have to bring this back to our Mammon – I was on my way to The Marketing Society after all.
I recalled a few influences over the years. For example, on the McDonald’s account we and the client always used to start a project by establishing a ‘fact base’ so that certain knowns were known and shared.
Paul Feldwick, in his excellent “The Anatomy of Humbug” seeks not to establish how advertising works, rather to expose the hidden theories people hold about how theythink it works. Deeply held beliefs about people being rational agents capable of making rational choices lurk beneath surfaces and manifest themselves in an insistence on a “unique point of difference” or a belief that growth and value can be created from only increasing frequency.
Opinions not truths.
Feldwick borrows from Keynes’s general Theory “So called practical men, who have never knowingly been exposed to an intellectual influence in their lives, are invariably the slaves of some defunct economist?
How we make choices, how our behavior influences others, which comes first, awareness or action is less and less a matter of opinion.
Heavenly have been making honesty sexy since 2003.
We like “Facts Not Opinions”. – David Wood, Group CEO @ Heavenly