Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Data-centric decision making

There is much evidence that data-centric decisions are better than decisions based on intuition. From time to time in the comments section of this blog a little tussle breaks out over whether the head or heart should rule in business. Needless to say I come down on the side of head. However, I’ve not been presenting much evidence.

So I have decided to do my own study. For 30 work-days I will live a data-centric life. I will make as many of my decisions as possible will be based on as much data as I can reasonably gather.

As far as I am able, I will make each and every decision based on data. I will record what those decisions were, what data I used in my decision making process, and how good I felt the decisions turned out.

I fully expect to be slowed down by this way of working – I will by living the Toyota Way – at tortoise rather than hare speed. I will be fascinated to see whether I can actually manage a whole month, and whether I judge my decisions to be better or worse as a result.

Decisions I will include are:

  1. What to buy (impulse purchases are out, considered data-centric decisions are in – this one is going to be tough!)
  2. What to work on, and for how long (based on plans and past data)
  3. Work-based decisions (allocating budget, changing suppliers, etc)
  4. Project-based decisions (looking at past projects and outside studies)
  5. Whether to accept a call or e-mail interruption in the middle of a task (I’m sure it’s more efficient to work straight through on a task, but don’t have any evidence on this)
  6. When to take a break and for how long

I will keep a log and the data or evidence I use to support my decisions. I will also review regularly and post something once a week to let you know how it’s going.

No doubt I will have less data than I would like about some decisions, but maybe I will have too much. I won’t know until I try.

So for all those who have read The Year of Living Biblically – this is The Month of Living Data-Centrically. Not so catchy, but without the scratchy clothing and hopefully better for business…


  1. Caroline

    I confess to admiring your resolve and approach to scientific research and look forward to your conclusions. I know I would find it hard.

    If I may I wonder though if the study is going to be a little biased by the hypothesis ? Possibly you could try a second month with a counter arguement?

    I would offer you read the opening sections of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and his evidence on decision making and how the brain works.

    I do not know the answer and would only offer that sometimes one needs to let things happen!

  2. Robert - thanks for the comments. After half a day the study is proving not at all easy. Data for the simplest decisions appears not to be available, so I revert to opinion (others and mine) and following my instincts. But there are another 29.5 days to go, and many more decisions to be made. And thanks for the Goleman reference!