TCOM and the Post-Truth Culture: The Fourth Monkey

By: Dr. John Lyons

Much has been said about our current cultural moment… where it appears truth does not matter to a large segment of our population.  All that matters is ‘winning’ and if winning requires you to provide inaccurate or misleading information, then it is just another strategy to ‘win’.

This cultural belief system, of course, represents an existential crisis for all of science and, of course, TCOM as well.   If truth doesn’t matter in social services then we should all just claim we are doing a ‘perfect’ job and that everything is great, and there is no need for accountability because we can’t get better than our current performance.   I suspect we all know this way of thinking is dangerous nonsense, but it has led me to think about how we can characterize this problem.

We are all familiar with the three monkeys:  ‘See no evil’, ‘Hear no evil’ and “Speak no evil”.    These three monkeys represent strategies to pretend that something bad simply does not exist.   If you don’t see it, you are not responsible for doing anything about it.   If you don’t hear about it, it does not really pose a problem.   If you don’t talk about it, it will go away, and no one will notice.  

Clearly we now experience a fourth monkey: “Reframe evil” … If something bad happens, let’s just spin it into a positive or come up with a way to blame others, so we have no responsibility for it.


Artist credit:
Isabelle Bisnaire

At the Praed Foundation and the Center for Innovation in Population Health, we feel strongly we are better than that.    We can never learn to be more effective if we cannot accept our imperfections.   We learn far more from our failures than from our successes.   If we always pretend we never make mistakes… we are simply cursed to continue to make them.  The only difference between people who succeed and those who fail is that people who succeed fail more.   If we are truly going to improve the helping sector we have to understand both what we do well and where we need to do better.

In that spirit, we self-reflect on the shortcomings that we, as the TCOM team and field, need to improve.

  1. Better instruction and coaching on how to employ TCOM tools in a fully collaborative manner.
  2. Aligning the initial certification process to more closely match the actual work experience of completing the tools.
  3. Supporting people in developing their abilities to learn from data collected by the TCOM tools.
  4. Translating the good work into the academic research literature to help our academic partners understand the power and utility of the approach.

Moving forward we commit to working with all of you to address our shortcomings.

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