Biases, bad ideas and a good idea

    Ian McMaster
    Von Ian McMaster


    So, what do you think of Donald Trump?

    Most people I know — whether in Europe or the US — think he’s is a boorishrüpelhaftboorish, sexist, racist, narcissistic megalomaniacGrößenwahnsinnige(r)megalomaniac. I would find it hard to disagree with any of those points.

    Of course, this consensusÜbereinstimmungconsensus of opinion says something about my group of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. I know no working class people from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the states that to swing (an election)(eine Wahl) entscheidenswung the 2016 presidential election for Trump.

    In other words, the people I know are a biasedvoreingenommenbiased samplehier: Auswahlsample. (I do have one good friend who believes Trump’s disruptionStörungdisruption of the established order in Washington D.C. is a thoroughly good thing, but that’s about itmehr nichtthat’s about it.)

    I am aware of this biasVoreingenommenheitbias, however, and so don’t regard the people I speak to as representative of US opinion or anything else. But often we are not aware of our biases. The topic of “unconscious bias” is a critical one for the business world and is the subject of Robert Gibson’s Intercultural Communication article in the current issue of Business Spotlight.

    Be aware of your biases and try to suspend judgement

    But back to Donald Trump. To the list of characteristics above I would add “economically illiteratewirtschaftlich ungebildet, ohne jegliche wirtschaftliche Kenntnisseeconomically illiterate”. Many of Trump’s policies — including the various trade wars he’s fighting — are damaging not just to the US economy as a whole, but also to the very voters who to put sb. into (somewhere)jmdn. (irgendwohin) bringenput him into the White House.

    So when I hear that Trump has spoken — or tweetTwitternachricht; twitterntweeted — I generally assume that it will have been nonsense again. This is another bias I am aware of.

    Last week though, Donald Trump tweeted something rather sensiblevernünftigsensible. He suggested that the requirement for public companyetw. Aktiengesellschaftpublic companies to report their financial results every quarterQuartalquarter should be to investigate sth.etw. überprüfeninvestigated and potentially replaced by half-yearly reportingRechnungslegungreporting (read more).

    Many business people and economic experts believe that compulsoryobligatorischcompulsory quarterly reporting leads to an excessive focus on the short-termkurzfristigshort-term, damaging longer-term investment and to deter sb. from sth.jmdn. von etw. abhaltendeterring companies from to go publican die Börse gehengoing public.

    Trump’s proposal of six-monthly reporting wouldn’t solve all the problems of short-termism and may even lead to reduced transparency and more opportunities for insider trading. Indeed, more important than reducing the compulsory frequency of reporting results might be for companies to stop their (voluntary) practice of providing quarterly profits forecastPrognoseforecasts (or “guidance”). But Trump’s tweet has at least provoked at important debate.

    The lessons here for daily life at work are simple. First, try to be aware of your biases. Second, try to to suspend sth.etw. aussetzensuspend them, at least briefly, before to pass judgementein Urteil fällenpassing judgement. Not easy, I know. But well worth the effort.


    In his blog, Ian McMaster has been commenting on global business issues since 2002. For older entries, see the blog archive on our former website.