This one has been bugging me for a while. It all started with the revelations a few weeks ago about fake news. Now, for anyone who was paying attention to the "news" items that were being passed around, "revelation" may not be the right word. It seemed pretty obvious that the majority of these pieces wouldn't know truth if it walked up to them at a "Meet Truth" rally wearing a name tag that read "Hello, my name is Truth."
And yet, these articles were appearing everywhere, shared like holy writ among the proselytes.
And now, a new phrase has raised its ugly head. Alternative facts.
Right up there with post truth and truthiness, isn't it? (Wait, that last one was a joke from Stephen Colbert. Wonder if he knew how truthlike it was going to become? And see how easy it is to make up these words?) I have a nasty feeling that, one way or another, alternative facts is going to be around for a while.
Now, before you reach for the remote, tired of the rhetoric you have been hearing on this subject, let me quickly note that this isn't going to be a rant about people pushing fake news or touting post truths or claiming alternative facts. No, this is about internal auditing and critical thinking.
You see, one of the things I found most exasperating when the rash of fake news seemed to be reaching a peak was the number of internal auditors — friends, former co-workers, good, solid, talented internal auditors — who apparently set their brains aside and accepted everything with which they agreed as gospel, no matter how questionable, far-fetched, and illogical the content. They forwarded and posted and retweeted and spouted and shared and used every communication available to keep the fakiness going.
Intelligent people — ones I knew were good auditors; good critical thinkers — suffering from cerebral power shortages as they shouted obviously erroneous information from the rooftops.
While we don't mention this much, we internal auditors live on our brains. We really don't have much else to offer but our ability to think in logical, different, and better ways. It is our critical thinking skill that gives us value.
To be good at critical thinking — to maintain our edge — we have to continually use critical thinking in every aspect of our lives. We cannot just turn it off when we walk away from the office; we must always be practicing. Critical thinking doesn't just happen — it doesn't just keep percolating when we walk away. It has to be nurtured and used … IN ALL SITUATIONS.
Here is all I'm asking (and what I would tell every new auditor). Keep your brain handy at all times. Like a Ferrari idling at the stop light, make sure your brain is waiting, ready for the gas to be applied.
And when you see something that doesn't smell right — when you see a post that is too good to be true, a tweet that just might be true, a blog or a news story or a rumor that may not seem exactly right — don't just retweet it and walk away. Take the time to verify it is really true. In fact, even if you are sure the information you just saw is correct, take a second and double check. Because, if it is important enough to report (which is what a post or share really is), then it is important enough to verify that it is accurate.
Imagine your customers' reactions if you reported something and, when they asked for support, you replied "Well, I saw it on the Internet."
That is, effectively, what you do every time you share an alternative fact.