Bubbles and Echo Chambers
Post date: 27 Mar 2017
Since the election of Donald Trump in the United States, and the EU referendum in the UK, a number of social commentators have drawn attention to what is becoming known as the 'echo chamber' effect, whereby people only interact with social media that reflect, and therefore reinforce, their own view of the world. As a result, they are not exposed to different, and possibly challenging ideas and viewpoints.
In a rather similar fashion, I have noticed that many organisations exist within their own 'bubble'. Inside the bubble, there are commonly-agreed views and beliefs that guide how the organisation operates. The culture of the organisation is often based upon shared values and opinions that underpin aspects such as the strategy, processes and even the systems.
Now, to some extent, this can be a good thing. A shared commitment to excellent customer service, for instance, could be valuable in an organisation and could even constitute a 'core competence', which is hard for competitors to replicate.
However, living within a bubble has considerable downsides too. For a start, huddling together in the bubble, do we really, really know what our customers think of us? Or how the public views us? Do we really understand who our customers are and what they consider to be 'value'? Within a bubble, assumptions can develop that become conventional wisdom within the organisation but these shared assumptions could be completely incorrect, resulting in ineffective or damaging work practices. And, from a BA perspective, this can also result in'requirements' that are based upon assumptions rather than reality.
It's very easy, in the bubble, to convince ourselves that we know best and that everyone else is wrong, misguided or irrelevant. And the more that our bubble-cushioned view diverges from the 'real world', the greater the danger of us becoming out of touch or irrelevant to the real needs of our customers and other stakeholders.
The poet Robert Burns actually put this rather well:
"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!"
As analysts, we need to challenge the view seen from inside the bubble. Our BA toolkit is full of techniques that help us to do this. If we are to help our organisations to succeed, we need to consciously pierce our bubbles, step outside and engage with the views and opinions of the wider world.