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Just the Facts

One likes to think that technical decisions are made on the basis of technical issues—facts, measurable quantities, practical considerations. The truth is that feelings, opinions, intuition, and just plain biases are part of any decision-making or problem-solving process involving people. This is the reality of what it is to be human, and although some people try to deny, control, or suppress these nonrational aspects, it never works completely.

An essential skill of any team that hopes to build technical consensus is to learn to separate fact from opinion. If the group, collectively, is to make the best decisions and solve problems creatively, they need access to the best information and to know what kind of information they have. Opinions aren't bad; team members should be able to express them freely. Opinions can even be useful, especially when weighted by hard-won experience, but they must not be confused with facts or data or analyses. Facts, too, have their limitations. In the areas of aesthetics or marketing appeal, facts may be in short supply. Unfortunately, once some group members have made up their minds, they do not want to be bothered by facts.


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