Jargon Watch: Shadow Truth

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Eric Ries, a serial entrepreneur specialising in internet start-ups, recently did a talk at Stanford University. The talk highlighted different reasons why start-ups fail. One I was particularly intrigued by was the concept of shadow truths, that is truths that are not vocalised, written down or part of any formal system yet are held as a tenet within the organisation.

For example, a friend of mine was brought in by a large company to help them with their credit control processes. They went around the organisation following their processes and methods, even to flying out to India, to visit a call centre. The calls went out to UK customers and the operator asked the UK debtors if they couldn’t get their family to help with their bills.

The shadow truth in this situation is that the Indian call operatives believed that western family ties and relationships were similar to those of their own culture. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.