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Insights lead to better decisions, not data or information

You have a critical decision to make. How much data do you need before you are able to make a decision? If all you did was a search on Google, you could get millions of articles, etc. Problem is you can’t read them all and you would have to verify the information in each article.

The mindset of most executives is that you need lots of data on whatever the problem is before you can make a decision. That may be true, but what data? Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone wrote a book on “making decisions without drowning in information” that may change your mind about data, information, insights, and decisions.

They state that you need to start your quest for data by asking “What is the essential question you need to answer in order to make the decision.”  In other words, you only need data that will help you answer that essential question. Therefore, you should be able to eliminate most the data. It may be interesting but not relevant. The question will tell you what data you need.

Now, what is data? It is a point in time. Data is basically a metric (a dollar amount, a physical dimension, etc.) You have to compare data points to see how one relates to the other. Did something change, move, increase or decrease for example. This comparison will give you information. So, data leads to information. At this point, you know more, but you still don’t have the information you need to answer the question and make a decision.

Now, by triangulating this information, you should be able to gain insights that you did not have before. These insights are what will enable you to answer the question and make a better decision.

In summary, start the decision-making process by asking the essential question you have to answer to make the decision. Gather only the data that relates to the question. Compare the data points to get the information you need. Then, by triangulating the relevant information available, you will get the real insights you need to make the decision.  

You may have to rethink your mindset about what data you need and how much data you need to make carefully thought out timely decisions. Let me know what you think in the comments area below.

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