Why Polling Just isn’t Enough

Over the last few years Internet polls have become quite popular. You can see them on Survey Monkeys, Google Forms and now even on Facebook, where people can quickly poll their peers and friends and get a basic analysis as to what they think overall. In this post I want to explain why polling just isn’t enough in order to guide a reliable and rigorous decision making process.

Democracy vs. meritocracy

One of the major disadvantages of the Internet is the fact that it was mostly designed on the principles of freedom of speech and therefore allows each participant to express their own views, weighing all opinions as equal. Voting usually is based on simple averages and therefore gives one voice to each participant, taking no account of their expertise or previous knowledge on the subject matter. Therefore, a poll will not give a higher priority to a surgeon on a medical poll (think of the discussions you see on vaccinations), and most voting platforms are not even designed to look for previous expertise.

Psychological biases

Polling software does not try to mitigate psychological biases and the teaching of behavioral psychology as to tendencies of irrationality amongst participants. Thus, if a whole business unit votes time and again in a similar fashion, the platforms that were designed according to democratic ideas of freedom of speech will not compensate for the phenomena. Risk aversion or participants that are argumentative in nature will not be identified and will not be alerted as to their behavior.

Reasoning and line of argumentation

Since polls are based only on my opinion regarding a well formed question (e.g. in prediction markets “will oil prices go up 20% in 2019?”), the polling software is not capturing the participant’s reasoning at all. There is no documentation of any of the arguments and there is no real space for analysing arguments and  counter arguments. In the few polling products that allow a more developed debate or discussion, the latter is held in a free text mode, and therefore – given the limitations of Natural Language Processing – cannot be analysed or scored properly by existing algorithms. When a participant votes in favour of the prediction that oil prices will go up 20% in 2019, at the end of the year he or she will be judged to be a good forecaster despite the fact that his or her reasoning was not documented or tested. Just imagine an analyst voting in favor of the prediction on oil prices, who in his/her head thinks they must go up because the Iranians will create a crisis in 2019. Come the end of the year, if oil prices do go up 20% and the Iranians did NOT initiate a crisis, any polling solution will judge this analyst to be right because of the surge in oil prices, not taking into account her failure of reasoning.

Continuous coverage of developing knowledge

Given that polling a big group of employees or experts still requires a lot of time for phrasing the question, collecting the answers and analysing any free text comments by the participants, people tend to use polling software as a singular event each time they have a question in mind. Polling systems usually are not meant to be used continuously and cover the ongoing dilemmas of an organisation. Therefore, polling only samples organisational opinions and knowledge every now and then and does not result with a profound knowledge base of views and expertise.

Here at MENT though..

The solution we offer takes a completely different and more profound approach. MENT accompanies all major discussions in the organisation, and does that while structuring the decision making process and monitoring it continuously. The combination of structured decision making process together with the ability to monitor and follow the patterns of each participant and each business user, brings far more richness to the analysis conducted and therefore results with multi layered meritocracy which is necessary for reliable and healthy decision making process.

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