by Dr. Gordon D. Booth
Any organization that chooses to base important decisions on hunches and desires rather than paying attention to the messages being taught by data will not be alone. People having been doing that for years. In history, there is no shortage of examples of how successful some people have been in ignoring the facts and plunging blindly ahead anyway.
Some of those who have applied the "hunch" form of decision making have enjoyed what seemed to be a temporary success, but history has almost always shown them the error of their ways.
Listening to data is nothing more than obtaining pertinent, valid data and basing our choices and decisions on what the data tells us. This statement might be a little over-simplified but it is true nonetheless. To accomplish this feat requires that we learn:
We have had many opportunities to observe a rather curious method of decision making. A group of otherwise-reasonable people begin to discuss solutions to a problem. Someone asks a pointed question that relates directly to the problem at hand. Many of those sitting around the table offer their best guesses as to the true status of the problem. But nobody makes the suggestion (that should be perfectly obvious) that maybe some data should be obtained that would answer the question being discussed.
Talking about what "might be the case" is a very popular way of avoiding the only way the answer can be obtained with certainty: getting appropriate data and interpreting it correctly. This is reminiscent of the earliest Greek philosophers who felt that it was a sign of personal weakness to have to resort to observation rather than to rely on one's own intellect.
It is no accident that science first began to achieve success when the scientific method was introduced. This method relies heavily on observation of the world around us--this is just another way of saying that science is based on data collection and interpretation. In just a few years of using data systematically, science discovered more than it had been able to discover in several thousands of years using non-data-based methods.
Those companies that have carefully followed this very successful methodology have had consistent, rapid success as well. In fact, today, a company's success in the marketplace depends very much on how quickly the company learns. And the fastest way to learn is through the appropriate use of data. This means collecting pertinent, valid data and interpreting it correctly.