Monday, November 12, 2007
Experts Don't Always Know What They Are Talking About
By Ed Newman, Marketing & Advertising Manager, AMSOIL INC. Experts perform a valuable function in our modern world. Whenever we get into an argument, whether heated or as a diversion, it isn't long before we reach for a forceful quote or two from an expert. Experts strengthen our confidence in views we've chosen to defend. Experts supposedly know what they're talking about because they've got the inside track on specialized knowledge. Experts are called upon to give us the final word in matters both obscure and self-evident.And sometimes experts are wrong.Minnesota's recent governor's race is a prime example of the experts being wrong. Polls consistently showed Jesse Ventura to be running third and the pundits gave him no chance of winning. Jesse was almost always discussed in terms of whether his candidacy would hurt Coleman more than Humphrey. History shows us that misguided predictions are nothing new. In 1876 an internal memo at Western Union declared, "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." According to Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and father of television, man would never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances. In 1949, Popular Mechanics boldly asserted that "computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Actually, there have been a lot of embarrassed experts when it comes to assertions about computers. The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall in 1957 said, "I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." Commenting on the microchip, an engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM said, "But what . . . is it good for?" This was in 1968. By 1977, the chairman and founder of Ken Olson expertly demonstrated his prescience by exclaiming, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." I still remember hearing opinions of people who shared this sentiment. The entertainment industry has produced a few guffaws as well. "Who wants to hear actors talk?" said H.M. Warner of Warner Brothers in 1927. Gary Cooper, in turning down the leading role in "Gone With the Wind" said, "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." And when the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962, their in-house experts assured management that, "guitar music is on the way out." Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact, misguided experts embarrass themselves in nearly every field of endeavor." Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value," said Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy of the Ecole Superieure de Guerre. In 1899 Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, declared "Everything that can be invented has been invented." I suppose the inventiveness of 19th century inventors left him pretty much blown away and incapable of conceiving anything new. Hmmm.If you listen around, you'll hear experts cited in our industry, too. Have you never heard any of these? "Synthetics are too expensive. They'll never sell.""Synthetics are a fad." "Oil should be changed every three thousand miles, even if it's synthetic." I suppose it does me little good to quote experts who think otherwise. Recent tests at Mobil have demonstrated synthetic motor oils with a three year, 25,000 mile life span. AMSOIL has had 25,000 mile drain intervals for 25 years, only recently introducing a motor oil inside a somewhat "normal" range, that is, 7500 miles.... which some insist is still too long. Some "experts" are saying, for example, that quick lubes will lose money if drain intervals are extended. I beg to differ. Extending drain intervals may provide an opportunity to make more money. Quick lube operators can begin to charge a premium for a high end synthetic motor oil and a lower price for conventional petroleum products. I am well aware of the fact that you can easily use this argument to discredit my views as a so-called "expert." In point of fact, I am not asking anyone to take my word on anything. What I would really like is for the industry, and you as individuals, to take an open mind approach to all these things. Listen to everything. Question everything. Get informed. Find out for yourself. I like what Joe Haggard said in his October "As I See It" column when he said that we "need to filter all the data that comes through our senses. There are a lot of gems in the flow, but a lot of garbage, too." He went on to spell out some of the criteria he uses to filter information. "Make a vow to bypass all those inputs based on greed, lust or self-enhancement at the expense of others. In short, have a strong conscience. Don't lie, cheat or steal if ever influenced to do so by others."We live in a very complicated age. You, as quick lube owners and operators, are perceived as experts by those who entrust their vehicles to you. You have a responsibility to your customers to become truly informed so that your advice is reliable and trustworthy. You certainly don't want to be numbered with those who must later eat their own words. Consider the words of those drillers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859: "Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."
This article originally appeared in National Oil and Lube News, March 1999
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