The Opinion Trap: Building a Knowledge-Based Foundation for Success

Most of us, most of the time, are happy to tell people what we think. We confidently express opinions and perspective even when we, objectively, have little knowledge.



From teenagers to retirees we all do it. It’s basic human behavior. We have opinions and we want to express them – whether it’s a kitchen table discussion on politics or a meeting on communications strategy.

After a very active discussion over dinner one night, a Cambridge-PhD friend stopped me short when he said that “Individual opinions are worthless unless they are based on knowledge.”  Put another way, for perspective to be taken seriously it should have a foundation.

Given the range of issues on which we as humans express opinions, if we applied this rule our conversations with friends and family would be shorter, far less animated and entertaining.

In a work context, however, when we are making decisions that can impact careers, brands, and the bottom line, having a solid grounding for what we say is critical.

With 30 years of communications industry and business experience, I’ve seen my fair share of colleagues sharing views that aren’t thought through or are based on a minimum level of factual due-diligence. And, I know at times, I’ve done the same.

When we do this, the opinions we express are, as my friend said, worthless or worth very little. We do ourselves a disservice, and those who have done their homework see through us.

When we sit down with family and friends, the views we express, however informed or ill-informed, are unlikely to have significant consequences. Our family loves us for who we are – we hope. 

But in the context of work, our success in our careers, the outcomes of our projects and businesses, we need to do the work required to back up what we say. We need to be self-aware enough to filter out the wheat of substance from the chaff of personal opinion.


Knowledge-Based Opinion


We need to have the discipline to know what we don’t know and do the research to fill in the gaps if we are to progress in careers and life.

This is not easy, especially for those in the early stages of their careers. And we should be under no illusion that those of us who have been around the block a few times won’t still find ourselves wandering down the less-than-grounded opinion path.  

We have to catch ourselves and be reminded every now and again that the “lazy” default is to share what we think without necessarily doing our homework.

To be human is to be imperfect. We’re not machines. By recognizing where we may fall short, we can do the work required to achieve the success we seek.


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications, digital marketing and branding agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size.  The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley, and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.                   

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