Verify the facts, sounds simple enough. However there are those who take things they find online as the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sometimes we come across things that look or sound great and seem perfect for our situation. However, relying on unsubstantiated information can cause you to lose credibility. This is especially true as a speaker or in negotiation using something to validate your position. Take for instance the following quote:
“85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical knowledge.” Carnegie Institute of Technology.
When I first discovered this quote, I was elated. It is exactly everything I teach; negotiation, communication and leadership. It was perfect to see it all in one quote and also that it came from the Carnegie Institute.
I recently saw a briefing from a congressional representative’s office that contained this quote and it’s also making its way around LinkedIn, which is the first place I saw it.
Seeing it in so many credible places would lead one to believe there must be some truth to it. That’s a problem we face in today’s online world. A quote can be put into a graphic and circulated and the more we see it, the more it solidifies it’s so called truth. The graphic above appears to have been pulled from Forbes.
This is where the importance of verifying the facts comes into play. Too many times people will present facts in a way that makes it believable. More times than not when I start to research the information, I find many false truths exist about the “facts” that have been presented.
My negotiation mind will not allow me to accept something like this without verifying the facts to see where it came from. This is one of the strategies in my Think Like A Negotiator book – “Verify the Facts.”
Unfortunately after doing some research I found the Carnegie institute indicated this information to be “extrapolated” (made up) from data that was in a report from 1918 on A Study of Engineering Education by Charles Riborg Mann.
A search of the report neither finds negotiation, nor the percentages indicated.
Based on the report; this quote is much closer to what the report is actually saying:
“Even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15% of one’s financial success is due to one’s technical knowledge and about 85% is due to skill in human engineering, to personality and the ability to lead people.”
The report has some discussion about personality and human engineering. Apparently, someone “translated” that to mean negotiation, communication and leadership ,which are definitely parts of the “human engineering” idea. Unfortunately neither quote is an exact match from the report.
Now that I know this is not factual, the person from the congressional representatives office now has less credibility because they used this quote in a briefing to a group of business owners. This being the second time I’d seen it in a week and since I teach those topics, I went on a search to find the truth and was disappointed to find it wasn’t even close.
I may still use this in a presentation but attribute it as extrapolated from a report and put the factual information in there but still use it as the importance of negotiation, communication and leadership in our lives. Perhaps I will line out the Carnegie Institute and put Eldonna Lewis Fernandez as the source!
You can find more detail about the report and its actual facts in this article:
Look for Part 2 on this topic where you will find more examples of information that is often not factual but often presented to be the solid facts.