What we discovered was that neither the Yale nor the Harvard study actually exists. There is no evidence that the studies took place and no papers were ever published. Yet the "goal-setting to-money" study is a particularly imperishable business myth that has circulated for several decades. It persists despite sound debunking efforts on the part of entities such as Fast Company, which conducted an in-depth investigation of the myth in 1996.
Here's an interesting piece about phantom research, business mythology, and evaluating the research stories we hear.
It's a good and interesting read -- not so much about being skeptical, but questioning and thinking carefully about research that is presented to us, particularly when it is imbedded within a story.
No question -- it's a tricky dance. The best way to convey data is through a story -- doing so builds trust credibility, believability, and emotional connection. The easiest way to manipulate and skew research is through the stories you tell about it.
What to do? Obviously for the teller it is to represent the research accurately. In presentations when I talk about story research, I always offer the original research up for review for any listener who wants it.
For the listener, it's to check the research you hear about. Don't accept it unquestioningly. Ask for the original document.
Now go read the article to discover what popular biz myth was busted!