In his book “I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World,” James Geary included several examples of the psychological concept of priming.  

“Our metaphors prime how we think and act. This kind of associative priming goes on all the time. In one study, researchers showed participants pictures of objects characteristic of a business setting: briefcases, boardroom tables, a fountain pen, men’s and women’s suits. Another group saw pictures of objects – a kite, sheet music, a toothbrush, a telephone – not characteristic of any particular setting.”

“Both groups then had to interpret an ambiguous social situation, which could be described in several different ways. Those primed by pictures of business-related objects consistently interpreted the situation as more competitive than those who looked at pictures of kites and toothbrushes.”

“This group’s competitive frame of mind asserted itself in a word completion task as well. Asked to complete fragments such as wa_, _ight, and co_p__tive, the business primes produced words like war, fight, and competitive more often than the control group, eschewing equally plausible alternatives like was, light, and cooperative.”

Communication, collaboration, and change management are arguably the three most critical aspects for implementing a new data governance program successfully. Since all three aspects are people-centric, we should pay careful attention to how we are priming people to think and act within the context of data governance principles, policies, and procedures. We could simplify this down to whether we are fostering an environment that primes people for cooperation—or primes people for competition.

Since there are only three letters of difference between the words cooperative and competitive, we could say that these are the three most important letters in data governance.

This blog originally appeared at OCDQ Blog.