Have you ever used a piece of information you saw floating around everywhere without checking its accuracy? If you have, do not feel badly, because most people do exactly what you do. Most assume that because everyone is saying it makes it right.

A few years ago, I interviewed a business coach, and one of the questions that I asked him was what his favourite quote was. He responded that he had two favourite quotes. For this article I will focus on one quote to demonstrate a point. My interviewee said that the quote was often attributed to Einstein, but he had seen variations of the quote. He wanted to find out definitively who the quote was by. The quote is "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting to get a different result." I did a quick search on the Internet and here is what I found:

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting to get a different result" Albert Einstein

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting to get a different result" Benjamin Franklin

Now we have a dilemma because these are the same quote. I called the library's answer line and asked them to check their quotation reference books to see who the quote was attributed to. Either version of the quote wasn't in any of the reference books that they checked.

I went to the reference library and conducted some additional research. I found "The New Quotable Einstein" by Alice Calaprice, senior editor at Princeton University Press. I went through the entire book manually because there was no way to do it electronically, and I couldn't find the quote. I contacted the author by email and explained the situation. Alice Calaprice is an Einstein expert, and is very familiar with, and has access to the "Einstein Papers." She responded that she had never seen that quote in all the years that she had been researching Einstein, and that there are many quotes on insanity and genius that people love to attribute to Einstein though he rarely used those words.

Should I assume that the quote must be by Benjamin Franklin? Not likely! I have not been able to find a definitive answer, so whenever I use the quote, I say popularly attributed to Einstein and Franklin. The point I wanted to illustrate to you is that because several people are citing information and attributing it to a source, doesn't mean that the information is accurate. It simply means that they are all citing from the one source so you have to exercise some due diligence.

Though this wasn't a paid project, I have worked on other projects where this same issue arose. A loose rule of thumb in research is if you find the information in three independent sources then you can assume that the information is likely correct. The key is three independent sources. I have also conducted research projects where what appeared to be information from independent sources, was actually from one source when you dug really deep. And many people often do not cite their sources, so you could easily believe that they are the source.

So, whenever you want to use a piece of information, and it’s critical to what you are doing, spend some time to verify that the information is indeed accurate. If you do not have the time but have a budget, you can hire an information broker to verify the information for you. Check the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) for referrals. If you do not have the time or the budget, call your public library because they often have answer lines for quick questions.

Remember, because everyone is saying so, doesn’t make it right.

Author's Bio: 

Avil Beckford, Chief Invisible Mentor, writer and researcher with over 15 years of experience, is the published author of Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook Journey to Getting It. Subscribe to the Invisible Mentor Blog for great interviews of successful people, book reviews, how-tos, articles and tips to mentor yourself and ignite your hidden genius. Explore the Resources page for free white papers, presentations and an e-book.