The Myth of Objectivity
Daniel Gullo

Almost anyone you ask would consider themselves logical, analytical, objective, pragmatic, etc.

However, there is really no such thing; at least, not in the absolute sense.

I don’t know of any Vulcans who might be reading this, thus, I will say that none of us is 100% logical, analytical, objective, etc. all the time.

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We are imperfect.  (And, even pureblooded Vulcans are arguably imperfect because “perfect” is a subjective standard…)

We respond differently and inconsistently given various environmental conditions and situations.  Our emotions enter into the equation, as well as our physiology; hormones, instincts, etc.

People are complex adaptive systems who, together, comprise other larger complex adaptive systems, which in turn, comprise larger complex adaptive systems, and so on.

Just as humans are flawed beings, anything we produce will be flawed.  A perfect being can create something flawed but a flawed being cannot create perfection; especially in an imperfect world.

This is why science will never be 100% objective. 

People fool themselves by thinking that following an empirical process (eg. plan, do, check, act, aka “scientific method”) will yield completely objective results.  We are all influenced by factors that we are not even aware of and even when we are aware that these influences exist, we are often so caught up in the moment that we lose sight that we are being influenced.

Think about “scientific research” for a minute.  In terms of learning about results, what would you place stock in:  Newspapers?  Internet sites?  Journals? Books?  Talks?

All of these are influenced by bias.

Peer reviewed journals are influenced by others who are might be competing with you to accomplish something (cure cancer, etc.)  Other sources are biased by the companies and other sources that fund them.  In fact, research to begin with is NOT free.  At some point along the line, someone is paying for it.

And so, if there is no interest in moving forward with a particular field of research, even though it might be the best thing or the right thing to do, that research will not proceed because there is no one willing to pay for it.  The opposite is true also.  If someone is highly motivated and able to sell the idea of useless or harmful research, it will go forward because it has funding.

And so, we need to do a better job of acknowledging the biases and influences that may be at work in our lives.  Taking time to pause, reflect, self-examine, etc. can help us to be more realistic and sound in our judgement.

Taking stock of our competence and incompetence, both conscious and unconscious aspects, can put us more in tune with our own capabilities and help us to be more collaborative people who see possibilities.


Daniel GulloDaniel Gullo Professional Headshots

Daniel has been a well-known and highly regarded servant of the Agile community for many years.  His tireless dedication and effort has earned him the distinction of The Most Valuable Agile Professional award for 2015.

As founder and principal of Apple Brook Consulting®, he has first hand experience about what it takes to make business work.  A lifelong entrepreneur, Daniel’s portfolio of clients is long and distinguished:  ING Direct (CapitalOne), NAVTEQ, IRS, PayPal, ADP, US Postal Service, GM, US Treasury Department, T. Rowe Price, GE, and many other high-profile organizations.

He is the founder of and chief advisor to Agile Delaware and a frequent reviewer, volunteer, and speaker for the Scrum Alliance, Agile Alliance, PMI and other organizations.  His experience includes delivering keynote addresses for conferences such as Scrum Gathering – India; Scrum Gathering – Rio; Scrum Gathering – China; et al.