I'm not contrarian in the fact that I prefer to make decisions with as much data as possible. That said, I do think that the most important and difficult decisions aren't based on quantitative inputs alone but several hard-to-capture qualitative judgements. This is where I've found two types of people - those who are data-driven decision makers vs those who are data-informed decision makers.

When considering data-driven decision makers, this cohort often believe more data means better decisions but get stricken by analysis paralysis. The fact of the matter is that there's diminishing returns to data beyond a certain point in almost every decision making process. This all might feel like nuance but from my experience, a decision that can be made solely off numbers in a database or spreadsheet is likely not high stakes and likely also easy to answer. In fact, those types of questions are the ones best handled by machine rather than (wo)man.

Data-informed decision makers make decisions deeply rooted in data but know that not all answers exist in data alone. Such decision makers know when they have enough data and use data to inform action. To be data-informed is to appreciate the art as well as the science of decisions - it turns out this is less simple to hand-off to a computer. In fact, a lot of decisions one might default to considering as data-driven are better described as data-informed (at least to make a good decision). Consider:

I say all this to point out that the hardest decisions generally require a data-informed decision maker. Be rooted in data but appreciate the value of other inputs and the art of decision making.

Published: 11/24/2020