Perhaps one of the most important books I have ever read, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolution taught me what modern day science is about. Studying this classic in 1990 at Wright State University, Kuhn was the first to introduce me to Popper’s principle of falsifiability which has remained with even to this day. The defining characteristic of science is the ability to prove a statement false (e.g., all swans are white is disproven by searching for a black swan).
It seems to me that far too much “content” shared by corporates and passing through social media falls short of this standard. Case in point, a recent article from HBR blogs brags about the importance of messengers when it comes to spreading ideas through a network. Given the language of my previous sentence, it should come as no surprise that the researchers used Tedx as their sample.
In the name of full disclosure I will admit I have found Gladwell’s notion of influencers overly seductive. Watts’ description of influenceability has greater truth value in my mind. That said, let’s return to Popper and Kuhn.
If we go searching for data to support our thesis that influencers contribute to the spread of a message, guess what we are going to find? Exactly that. The fact that such research appears on an HBR blog then masks the fundamental flaw with the work. If it appears on HBR, then it must be good. Right?
I guess seduction takes many forms. Just as the simplicity of Gladwell’s model seduces us, so does our love affair with sources perceived as authoritative. But none of that changes the fact that so much of the corporate research and content marketing falls short of the defining characteristic of what we today call the scientific method and discovery.
We should not be surprised to find exactly what we search for.