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Are you a Forum Shopper?

“Forum Shopping.”  I love this expression.  Not just because I love shopping – more importantly, because I am fascinated by the lengths people will go to get the answer they want.  In the legal profession, we call that “forum shopping” – asking multiple people for an opinion in a quest to get the opinion you are looking for.

At home, my kids use the technique often.  If my daughter comes to me first and doesn’t get the desired response or result, she will quickly go to my husband, ask the same question, and conveniently omit to mention the conversation she just had with me on the same topic. (In many cases, she gets what she wants from my husband, but is punished later for the approach.)

Admittedly, I have also gone “forum shopping” on occasion. For example, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I found it very difficult to cut back on caffeine – even though most doctors advised to do so.  But, after extensive research, I found a web site (most likely sponsored by the Coffee Growers’ Association) that posited that drinking three cups of caffeinated coffee per day was not hazardous.  I copied that link and shared it with all who dared to challenge me.

Fortunately, my kids turned out OK (although my five year-old son somehow enjoys coffee.)  But forum shopping can be risky – especially when used for business.  Here are four reasons why:

  1. If you have to search hard to get the answer you want, it is likely not the best answer
    If you truly want or need a professional opinion, you should heed the advice provided.  You can always find someone to take your side and agree with you – but that doesn’t make it the right answer.
  2. When you reject the opinions of others, you may alienate them as well
    While you may have found one person to give you the answer you want, you are in turn rejecting the opinions and advice of all those who told you otherwise.  If you want or need their trust and support to move forward, this is not a good way to earn it.
  3. Going around the process shows disrespect for it
    Organizations work hard to build processes that ensure good decision-making.  Forum shopping exposes a loophole in many of those processes.  If others catch on (and they will), standard process will become irrelevant and bad decisions can follow.
  4. Diverse perspectives are only valuable when they are all truly considered
    When forum shopping, you are asking for multiple perspectives – but only to get the one you are looking for.  This is not truly getting a diverse opinion.

Of course, there are times when forum shopping can have a positive result (refer to my coffee example earlier).  But, I recommend proceeding with caution.

Please share your thoughts or comments below.

Jane