Do We Want Our Conclusions Challenged?

The spring issue of the Journal of Association Leadership is out, and it contains an article that summarizes ASAE & The Center’s Seven Measures of Success research report. I skimmed the article (having already read the report), but a sentence at the end caught my attention:

The study has stimulated active discussion among association leaders of what it means to be a remarkable association. Audiences have discussed the findings vigorously, suggested avenues for future research, and even challenged some of the study’s conclusions.

That last sentence is fine, actually—it is just one word that bugs me.


Audiences have “even” challenged some of the study’s conclusions. That implies a bit of an incredulous tone. They even challenged the conclusions! Gasp! As if that were somehow a ridiculous thing to do.

Now, perhaps I’m reading too much into that one word, but I think it jumped out at me because I have yet to be in a conversation where anyone challenges ANYTHING about the Seven Measures report. The only challenging comments I’ve seen or heard have been conspicuously ignored.

I love ASAE (and I think they know that), and I am glad they invested in this study. I know they WANT it to spark conversations and push thinking. But if we allow it to go unchallenged, it will lose much of its value. I’m not saying there’s some mass campaign to prevent people from challenging it, but subtle things like adding the word “even” can add up, even if they are not conscious.