The calls are starting – first time candidates and incumbents are starting to call in order to explore potential campaigns in 2014.
Awhile ago, I wrote a check list for first time candidates, and while I still stand by this simple checklist, I have something additional to add to the list.
You need a political consultant.
Why? Let’s explore, because its Science Friday.
Why you need a political consultant
Setting aside hindsight bias, let’s begin with that fact that after 30 years in political consulting and political campaigns, I don’t know many things for certain, but I know the following to be absolutely true:
Our brains are designed to take shortcuts and often unwillingly and sometimes even willingly deceive us.
Let’s be honest, if you…or ‘someone you know’…is exploring a run for office, you most likely have a healthy ego. It is this healthy ego that allows you…or your friend… to feel like you have something to offer the public that they should “buy.”
The moment you verbalize your intention to possibly consider a run for office, people & your own brain begin to lie to you – even more than normal.
Why People Lie
Your friends lie because they like you and don’t want to have a candid conversation.
Your friends are not intentionally lying, but they will say thinks like “I think you would be great.”, “We need good people like you to run.”, “You would be leaps and bound better than the nit-wits we have now.”, and various other pleasant things.
People who do business with the office you seek lie because you may win.
They are looking out for the own self interest and they will be very nice to you, especially in the early stages of exploration.
Your friends and people lie to you because they don’t know better.
Your friends & others may give you an honest opinion that you may make a fantastic public official, but don’t know the first thing about political realities, political campaigns, or the campaign process.
Why Your Own Brain Lies to You
This entire Science Friday will be dedicated to the study of irrationality, heuristics and fallacies.
Let’s just state two things as facts as a summary of the entire field of research & literature:
- Our brain has two parts, an emotional part and a rational part. These parts must work together and are often in conflict.
- Our brains take shortcuts (heuristics) in order to make order of the world and to survive.
If one does not have a meta experience and take the time to think about thinking, you are helpless to fight the shortcuts your brain is conditioned to take.
Even if you have a meta-experience, if you do not build deliberate systems to force yourself to fight your brain, you are helpless.
This is exactly why intelligence analysts who are dealing with far more complex issues other than “should I run for office?” build these critical thinking processes into their workflow.
Bottom line: our hunches, our guts, our thoughts are often just dead wrong.
Let’s explore some common issues:
As humans, we are often completely ignorant of why we make the decisions we do (like run for office). We make the decision, then perform mental gymnastics to rationalize the decision. It happens lighting quick, unconsciously and then we rationalize our decision by filling in our memories and just making stuff up. We do this so often we are blissfully unaware that our brains are doing it. We simply must rationalize the decisions we make.
Fun fact: If you are asking about running for office, you want to run for office. Most likely, you are asking around seeking a rational explanation to justify your decision.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
I don’t want to insult you, but all humans (even great political consultants) fall subject to the Dunning-Kruger effect.
This effect tells us that most of us are extremely poor at estimating our own competences and the difficulty of the complex tasks in front of us. True, the effect is more pronounced among unskilled labor, but this makes the trap even more dangerous for aspiring politicians.
As David McRaney tells us, “The less you know about a subject, the less you believe there is to know in total. Only once you have some experience do you start to recognize the breadth and depth you have yet to plunder.”
“In the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” - Russell
Political campaigns are complex operations that unless you have participated in them before, you can’t possibly know what it is like to be a candidate.
Here is another issue, just because you have participated in a campaign as a volunteer/manager/staffer, you can’t possibly know what it is like to be a candidate.
Side note: This especially holds true when it comes to the area of raising money. Remember there is a major difference between raising money for your favorite charity/business and raising money for your own political campaign. I routinely take the amount a first time candidate tells me they can raise, cut it in half and cut it in half again. More than likely, this is the amount they will raise.
Remember those encouraging words your friends tell you? You are falling subject to subjective validation.
The subjective validation tells us that people are prone to believing vague statements and predictions are true, especially if they are positive and address you personally.
These are just three of the cognitive traps that we as humans fall into. Worse? We fall prey to them all the time without noticing, and these are just the TIP of the iceberg. (To see a more comprehensive list – look to Wikipedia or look at the additional reading listed at the bottom of this post.)
Lucky for you and your brain, there is a solution: hire a great political consultant.
Any great political consultant must study brain function. It is our job to understand the decision making process so that we can understand how voters make decisions, how political decisions are made, and how we can affect these processes.
Our job is not only to help you navigate to victory, but also to have the experience and courage to be the check against your brain.
At Ozean, we receive feedback after every campaign cycle that the number one thing our clients appreciate most is our ability to cut through the “fog of a campaign” and be candid – even when it hurts.
Ozean does this by building into our processes the systems to combat not only your cognitive biases but our own cognitive biases. This takes effort, skill, and it takes an understanding of how our brains naturally deceive us.
We are continuously floored by the number of political consultants that are operating on their guts, their rules of thumb, and their own flawed thinking.
In closing, your friends lie to you & your brains lie to you. You need a political consultant to help you navigate these waters, and you better make damn sure your consultant won’t tell you only what you want to hear.
If you would like to discuss your potential and use our critical thinking processes, please do not hesitate to contact Ozean.
Ariely, Dan (2009-06-06). Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.
Heuer, Richards (2012-01-17). Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, Central Intelligence Agency.
Silver, Nate (2012-09-27). The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don’t.
Sunstein, Cass R.; Richard H. Thaler (2008-04-08). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (p. 257). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
Wikepedia, List of Cognitive Biases