With all the focus on evidence-based decision-making, success metrics and KPIs, it’s understandable that one’s tendency is to gravitate towards the “hard stuff”, the numbers, the proof.
Such quantitative reports like “80% of global leaders are dealing with x issue” or “53% of CEOs are focusing on y skill to develop in 2017” often seem to make an air-tight case for a certain direction. Is that really the end of the story? We’re not writing to reignite the age-old quantitative vs. qualitative debate about which is more useful for decision-making. But we do want to shed light on why the quantitative is always insufficient.
The magic of the “soft stuff”
A wise man once shared that, “Data never provides you with the answer; it just helps eliminate all the really bad answers.” Statistics are just data, mere inputs into a larger pot that should include personal intuition (deeply developed mental models based on previous experience patterns) and qualitative, human input. That last part is what we mean by “soft stuff”: the human overlay of a certain experience.
Having conducted our own extensive qualitative research via Exchanges 2016, we believe this human factor is absolutely critical in the decision making process of any enterprise leader. The more the decision would impact human beings, the less binary the likely outcome, the more important it is to include qualitative data in your decision-making.
A savvy, mature leader knows precisely how much to lean on soft versus hard data by understanding the pros of each and navigating the biases that come with both. So let’s break them down quickly:
There’s a yin and yang to making sense of information. Relying solely on quantitative data for insights, development or decision-making is a mistake.
Instead, what we find often works is using the quantitative data as a first pass at an issue to rule out truly poor choices, and then overlaying the qualitative research to help fine-tune a direction or insight with the human element.
We’re curious to hear from you. How do you use data in your decision making?