I think it’s safe to state that better information makes for better decisions. Or, more specifically: comprehensive, timely information that is readily available in a useable format can enable more useful decisions.
But I tend to wonder why we tend to focus on computer information systems and their data when talking about information and decision making. We can ask the same (and far more complex) questions of human information systems.
First off, human systems are WISER. Wise computer systems don’t exist, except in the movies. Wise human systems abound – and have done so for tens of thousands of years. We have been able to work collaboratively to create beneficial outcomes far greater than any one person could produce since pre-historic times.
Second, human systems CARE about getting to the most useful decisions. Even if you ask a computer system for an answer that will “end its life” (deem it redundant or ineffectual), it will just go on, chunking along and spitting out results. Because human systems care, they can provide far more useful, more precise, more extensive responses.
Third, human systems EMBRACE CHAOS. Computer systems are the antithesis of chaos. Have you ever seen a circuit board? Compare that with a street map of early Rome. Or the patterns of person-to-person interaction over the life of a social get-together. We can improvise. We can create. Among other things, we created computer systems. Computer systems cannot create game-changers. Only human systems can.
So, why is it that when we see a title like the one on this article, we instinctively think of computers and data, rather than people and wisdom? Well, there are some reasons I can think of.
Computer systems are clean. They’re simple. Their answers are binary, or at least logarithmically crisp.
Human systems are messy. Really messy. But then again, so’s life.
We can make decisions from computer system data. And we often do, because it’s easy. We can run a database query, parse the data, and spit back the results with mathematical accuracy. But these results need to be interpreted. Answers out of binary data sets need context. And most of the time, presuming that any binary decision is valid in the real world is, well, foolish.
But we should make more decisions from human data. You CAN query usefully into human systems. You can also engage the process of fundamental culture change BY querying a human system, if you go about it appropriately. I like to use 12 Windows. It’s not the only solution, but it’s the one that’s worked best for me so far.
We want better decisions to enable useful change. For those decisions to be the best they can be, we need access to the best information. With today’s understanding of complex human systems and how they work, you have access to the most profound stores of information, just by asking the right questions, enabling the right activity and enabling a bit of chaos to become part of the conversations.
You start from a moment of insight. One individual has a thought, a possibility, that could offer benefit. The question is, how do you clarify, refine, resource and implement that thought in such a way that it benefits the recipient community, is adopted willingly by them, and has a net positive impact, inclusive of all manageable risks?
The best, the most useful, information there is, rests within the hearts and minds of the people who live within and around the system. As individuals, they have gaps and biases, of course, but as a complete system, their brilliance is unsurpassed.
If you want better decisions, don’t just invest in your computer systems. Take the time, and make the investment to fully engage your human system. The results will be well worth the investment, and may well astound you.