May Contain Lies

How stories, statistics and studies exploit our biases — and what we can do about it

“Powerful and punchy” — Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written” — Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece” — Katy Milkman

“Fascinating” — Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote” — Vaclav Smil

Amazon #1 category bestseller (UK and US)

Amazon Top 100 across all categories (UK)

Financial Times Business Books of the Month (April 2024)

Adam Grant’s 8 New Idea Books to Start Spring

Next Big Idea Club Must-Read Book for May 2024

“Powerful and punchy”

Gillian Tett

“Brilliantly researched and written”

Andy Haldane

“A masterpiece”

Katy Milkman

“Fascinating”

Raghuram Rajan

“A much-needed antidote”

Vaclav Smil

Adam Grant’s 8 New Idea Books to Start Spring

Next Big Idea Club Must-Read Book for May 2024

Pre-order your copy here

    The word ‘lie’ typically means an outright falsehood. But ‘lie’ is simply the opposite of ‘truth’. Someone can lie by hiding contradictory information, not gathering it in the first place, or drawing invalid conclusions from valid data. Even if books, studies, or talks are filled with facts, they should all carry the same health warning: They may contain lies.

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    An unhealthy obsession with organisational health

    An unhealthy obsession with organisational health

    Two leading asset management firms drew my attention to the McKinsey Organizational Health Index as a potential tool to evaluate a company. A book, "Beyond Performance 2.0: A Proven Approach to Leading Large-Scale Change", written by two McKinsey partners, claimed that companies with high scores on this Index trounced their unhealthy peers along a range of performance measures. For example, their shareholder returns were three times as high. But as I wrote in an earlier post, rather than being more impressed ...
    Successful companies are successful

    Successful companies are successful

    I was struck by the Harvard Business Review headline "Companies that Practice 'Conscious Capitalism' Perform 10x Better". On the one hand, it appealed to my confirmation bias. Conscious capitalism involves serving stakeholders, not just shareholders, in line with my book Grow the Pie and work on purposeful busienss more generally. On the other hand, the effects seemed too big to be true. If conscious capitalists could really perform ten times ...
    Discernment matters even more

    Discernment matters even more

    In 2015, 2018, and 2020, McKinsey released a trio of papers claiming that diversity has a positive causal impact on firm performance, titled "Diversity Matters", "Delivering Through Diversity", and "Diversity Wins". These studies make basic errors, as highlighted by Green and Hand (2021) and others, yet were widely cited - perhaps due to confirmation bias. McKinsey have now doubled down in their latest (November 2023) report, entitled "
    Want a more innovative conclusion? Innovate the conclusion

    Want a more innovative conclusion? Innovate the conclusion

    'Want a more innovative company? Hire more women'. The title hooked me immediately. I’m an avid follower of the @TEDTalks Twitter page, but I don’t have time to watch every talk. But when I saw one with the title ‘Want a more innovative company? Hire more women’, I wanted to hit play instantly.
    You couldn’t even make it up

    You couldn’t even make it up

    Confirmation bias leads us to make up excuses to dismiss facts we don’t like. If our favourite politician gets elected and the economy tanks, we’d argue it would have done worse had she not been in charge. Or we’d protest that we need to wait another year before we can truly evaluate her performance.
    Does board diversity really improve environmental performance?

    Does board diversity really improve environmental performance?

    My LinkedIn feed came alive with this post: Francesca Gino is the Harvard Business School professor accused of faking data in her research. HBS is conducting an investigation into the matter and I am reserving judgement until its outcome; this post is on something completely different. My ...
    Missing the big picture

    Missing the big picture

    In 2016, the finance company MSCI released a study claiming that CEO pay bears no link to company performance. It couldn’t have been better timed. That year, soaring CEO pay was controversial on both sides of the Atlantic. The UK government was so concerned that it launched an official inquiry into it (and other aspects of how companies are run).
    The danger of first impressions

    The danger of first impressions

    ‘Go with your gut’, ‘Follow your first impression’, ‘Obey your hunches’. We frequently hear this advice, and Malcolm Gladwell wrote a successful book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, on the value of heeding your instincts.
    Why better brains beget bigger biases

    Why better brains beget bigger biases

    A wealth of evidence demonstrates how people suffer from confirmation bias, but most of it is on ordinary people. Surely intelligence is a cure? Smarter cookies might better appreciate the logic in a counterargument, and notice defects in data even if supports their viewpoint.
    Do women improve decision-making on boards?

    Do women improve decision-making on boards?

    Last week, Harvard Business Review published an article entitled "Research: How Women Improve Decision-Making on Boards". It was widely shared on LinkedIn and someone tagged me in it, given my research on diversity, equity, and inclusion. When I became Managing Editor of the Review of Finance, I appointed the first women to its board of editors in our 20-year history, so I'd like to believe the findings. However, it's important not to take claims at face value, particularly when ...
    Does corporate governance improve company performance?

    Does corporate governance improve company performance?

    Corporate governance...can genuinely add value for business. I was delighted to see a company’s study reach this conclusion. Corporate governance is my main research topic; I’m a Fellow of the European Corporate Governance Institute, and at the time I was Academic Director of the LBS Centre for Corporate Governance.