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When it comes to economic data, it can be difficult to separate what people believe to be true from what they want to be true. “People need to be a little more scientific and a little less political in the nature of their interpretation,” says Robert Johnson, president of the left-leaning Institute for New Economic Thinking. “It’s times like this when people are least scientific.” How Much Room To Grow? Bloomberg Businessweek, February 13, 2017.

We seem to be the least scientific, in my experience, when we don’t need to be scientific. Many everyday solutions and improvements are fairly obvious. If it is broken, just fix it. We can make a lot of progress just by doing the obvious and by paying attention.

Eventually, we reach a point where our intuitive decision making produces a declining rate of improvement. The obvious decisions just seem to stir the pot and not result in any lasting changes of true value. Since we’ve been successful to this point with our decision making we are sure the real problem must be something else, like people not working hard enough or someone making too many errors.

If we are lucky, someone will crunch some numbers and produce a profound insight into what is really going on and how to make things better. If we are unlucky, we’ll instead implement a process improvement office or train everyone in quality control techniques or some other management fad of the moment. Finally, maybe luck will prevail and we’ll stumble upon something pretty profound like an agile technique already being used somewhere in the organization.

With all these approaches, we found that if we had baseline data showing how we were doing before implementing a new change, we were more successful with changes because we could tell objectively that we had in fact improved things. So, we found ourselves using a scientific method without ever calling it that. We just tested our decisions against data that came from our normal work and processes to see if what we think should have happened really did. Objective data was always the great balance to emotion and politics.

See how to get good data using Your Dark Data

What are you doing to ensure your decisions are based on objective data and real improvement?

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