The Danger of Validation


Validation is a powerful thing. I guess it’s something that’s pretty much hard wired into our sense of being. It’s the confirmation that what we are doing in right. From a very early age it’s something we seek. Initially, we look to our parents for it, then to our school mates, our teachers, our employers and ultimately from society at large. We’ll take as much of it as we can and accept as little as anyone else is willing to give.

When it comes to business, however, a little validation can be a dangerous thing.

The Oxford Dictionary defines validation as the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something. So, in business terms, you’re looking for evidence that the strategy or system or process that you’ve put in place is the right one. Of course, the real validation comes with proven results over a period of time. But in the dynamic, fast-moving world of business, we don’t always have the luxury of being able to wait for something to prove itself over time. We need some early indicators. We need a little validation.

Validation? Careful what you wish for

The problem is that sometimes we actually do get just enough validation to convince us to move forward. How is that a problem? Well, sometimes it’s not actually confirmation that we’re on the right track at all. Sure, we might be getting some good customer feedback or our revenues might have popped just a little, but is that enough to prove our new strategy is the right one? Often time, it is not. There could be any myriad of other reasons to explain that positive feedback or revenue pop. Maybe it has nothing to do with your new marketing strategy at all. But sometimes we are so desperate for any sign that we simply put too much emphasis on this initial validation.

Healthy Scepticism

Sometimes, the most positive play you can make is to be extremely critical. Maybe even to the point of being sceptical. To some people, that might be seen as a bit negative. Why not just accept the positive indicators? Why continue to doubt when you already have some proof of concept – as the techhies in Silicon Valley would call it? Well, simply put, because it may not be enough.

Overwhelming Evidence

Ask you self the question. Do you have overwhelming evidence that your new strategy, system or process is right? If you can not get an overwhelming yes, then maybe the best answer is no. Just like we have been programmed to seek validation, we have also been convinced that doubting is negative. I just don’t agree with this. It’s like the classic philosophical question – Is the glass half full or half empty? We generally accept that if people see the glass as half full, they are a positive person. If they see it as half empty, that’s an indication of a negative attitude. Again, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, I disagree.

Empty equals Opportunity

To me, I always see the glass as half empty. And that is an extremely positive state of mind. Why? Because in the empty, lies the opportunity. You can’t do anything more with the part that is already full. That’s done. If you want to sit back and enjoy your life in ignorant bliss that the job is complete, go ahead. But you’re lying to yourself. If the glass is half empty, you still have more to do. You’re leaving upside on the table. I wrote a bit more on this in Glass Half Empty.

So, go ahead and seek your validation. It’s important. Just be careful not to convince yourself that a little validation is proof positive that you are right. Sometimes, if it’s not an overwhelming yes, it has to be a no.