Strong Opinions, Weakly Held / SOWH

Strong opinions means those that have a lot of research behind them, not those formed because they are popular or because you like them. Strong opinions are defensible and important for the progress of scientific discovery.

Weakly held opinions are those that you personally challenge constantly because that is what science is all about. Nothing is certain. A good technologist and scientist is constantly challenging his or her own ideas as well as the ideas of others.

Passion is good, it means you have done your research.

Dogma is bad, it means you let your love of an opinion crystallized it into a strongly held opinion, which is dangerous to everyone.

‘I’ve been pretty obsessed about the difference between smart people and wise people for years. I tried to write a book called “The Attitude of Wisdom” a couple times. And the virtues of wise people – those who have the courage to act on their knowledge, but the humility to doubt what they know – is one of the main themes in Hard Facts. We show how leaders including Xerox’s Ann Mulcahy, Intel’s Any Grove, Harrah’s Gary Loveman, and IDEO’s David Kelley turn this attitude into organizational action. Perhaps the best description I’ve ever seen of how wise people act comes from the amazing folks at Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future. A couple years ago, I was talking the Institute’s Bob Johansen about wisdom, and he explained that – to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward – they advise people to have “strong opinions, which are weakly held.” They’ve been giving this advice for years, and I understand that it was first developed by Institute Director Paul Saffo. Bob explained that weak opinions are problematic because people aren’t inspired to develop the best arguments possible for them, or to put forth the energy required to test them. Bob explained that it was just as important, however, to not be too attached to what you believe because, otherwise, it undermines your ability to “see” and “hear” evidence that clashes with your opinions. This is what psychologists sometimes call the problem of “confirmation bias.”’ (Bob Suton, Strong Opinions, Weakly Held)

💢 One of the most annoying and dangerous trends in 2019 is calling people who practice SOWH “toxic” — usually because their opinions are lazily formed and indefensible. These hypocrites demonize and attack the person with the strongly held opinion as being a “bully” in order to deflect from the actual debate of the opinion itself. While it is true that some “toxic” people attack the person first (or early) in a debate, calling someone “toxic” just because that person’s strongly held opinion is that your opinion is utter bullshit does not constitute a personal attack at all.

Strong Opinions Loosely Held / SOLH

This term resulted from someone’s laziness to not do the actual research on where the term came from epitomizing the antithesis of the concept of “strong opinions”.