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Perceptions or reality
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My wife often tells me I am not a "real engineer" because she thinks my analytical analysis is not up to snuff. Of course, perhaps her perception is related to her getting a prestigious chemical engineering degree from a renowned school. It just may be my humble mechanical engineering degree from a school not recognized as existing where we live has a bit to do with it.

In defense, I think one can be too analytical, or, even worse, think they are being analytical when they are not. Two recent examples come to mind.


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The first is coal fired power plants. I have come to the conclusion that a combination of environmental pressure and government environmental regulations is going to push coal fired power plants out of business quickly in the United States, in say less than fifteen years. This movement has nothing to do with science or economics--it is perception driven. It has nothing to do with which political party is in power, the die has been cast. We even have a model to prove this can happen this fast. That model is newsprint, directory grades and some printing and writing grades. The decline in newsprint started about eighteen years ago and is now nearly complete. The other grades mentioned are only slightly behind newsprint.

Coal fired power plants have gotten a bad name and the perception of coal fired power plants is what is driving the course of their demise, not analytical data. The prudent will think hard about this and be prepared for their disappearance.  Here at Paperitalo Publications, we are very concerned about this subject and have produced a special Pulp & Paper Radio International show on the topic.  You can listen to it here.

The other example is closer to home for us. It is Paperitalo's own efforts to sell advertising on our sites. We have been watching electronic delivery data since 1995. Since we have no print magazines, it is our sole focus of study in this area. We have more data on ourselves and others than anyone else. We know what electronic advertising can deliver, what its value is. Yet, people follow their perceptions and continue to spend their money on very expensive and less effective forms of corporate communications, because "this is what we always do."

The coal fired power plant and the advertising decisions seem to be miles apart, but they are not. Both require a solid understanding of analytical data as well as a solid understanding of perceptions. In the case of the coal fired power plants, engineers are comfortable with their analytical data and think perception does not matter, despite nearly forty years' experience telling us perception is everything when it comes to the environment. In the case of my advertising example, decision makers rely on their perceptions, despite the fact that analytical data would tell them they need to consider other options.

The world is made up of analytical data and perceptions. The challenge is weighing them both and then making the optimum decisions for your business.

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