Alternative facts are fine in business — but too dangerous for politics

Alternative facts are fine in business — but too dangerous for politics

When President Trump promised to run the United States like his businesses, supporters imagined efficiency, strict budgets, and better ‘deals’ for America. As a startup founder who spent 20 years in marketing, I saw something different: A collapse in the use of facts.

In many businesses, stretching or denying facts is a strategy for winning deals or internal political battles. Many executives, including Trump, don’t want common facts. In a company, that has company cultural and financial consequences. In a society, it’s corrosive and destructive to the fundamentals of democracy.

As President Barack Obama said on David Letterman’s new Netflix show, “One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts.” He added, “what the Russians exploited — but it was already here — is we are operating in completely different information universes.”

If we want to understand Trump’s actions and restore a baseline of common facts, we can look for answers in business.

Lying like an executive

The White House repeats two narratives often heard in boardroom presentations. First, everything is better and greater because I am responsible. Second, something is broken, but someone else is to blame. The executive finds convenient data then draws a misleading insight to support either argument.

For example, the Fact Checker blog at The Washington Post reports that Trump made 2,140 false or misleading claims in the first 365 days of his presidency. His most repeated claim follows the first narrative. Trump took credit for the stock market growth 95 times, insisting that “…had the other side gotten in, the market would have gone down 50 percent from where it was.”

Like many executives, Trump finds positive data then takes credit for it. The Fact Checker team notes that Trump considered economic growth under Obama “a bubble” and ignored that foreign stocks are outperforming their U.S. counterparts.

Conversely, Trump blamed the 2013 government shutdown on President Obama, since “… problems start from the top,” yet blamed Democrats for the 2018 shutdown. Comedian Seth Meyers, who pointed out the hypocrisy, said it this way: “For each Trump quote, there is an equal and opposite Trump quote.”

If anyone questions Trump’s reality, he has a stock response to invalidate the critics: fake news.

The Trumps we work with

Trump’s fabrications have a dedicated…

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