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Sunday, July 23, 2006

letter to a young professional

[excerpt of a letter of advice written to a young professional entering the political campaign world]

Many years ago I conducted polling for two federal campaigns – Senate and Congressional seats, respectively. The Senate campaign staff dismissed a couple of serious and urgent recommendations – because they were based on the qualitative side of my efforts. On the other hand, the Congressional candidate and campaign manager had to be coaxed and persauded on a couple of matters, but then assiduously applied recommendations and counsel given.

The Senate race failed at the polls (they listened too late); the Congressional race won.

Some years later, I was asked to give a presentation in Washington on these campaigns from the research perspective as to the what's, how's, and why's of (what they said had turned out to be) predictive, 'qualitative' insights 'derived' from hard crosstabulated polling-data that appeared to 'speak for itself' to the contrary. 'Go figure'. The presentation provided me an opportunity to correct their notions.

The presentation was anchored to four simple, pragmatic principles I developed as a collegiate student and use in my professional career, the second of which is counter-intuitive (in those days called 'alogical'), and the fourth – a principle very simple to state, and in my view the most important, but requiring a great deal to explain or suggest applications – I will explain at a later date.

Of these four principles, 2 and 3 have implicit permutations of use, depending on the type of activity they are being applied.

1. Trust nothing, neglect nothing
assures everything gets done, everything gets known, etc

2. The least important thing has the greatest value
the 'obvious' distorts or filters perception, and the least important 'thing' corrects it and discloses

3. Every relationship has a weakness
discovering a weakness is the beginning of the process to 'advantage' in one's self, campaign, organization, etc, to factor, offset, or fix

4. Words don't think
. . . . .

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