A 2011 report by the Corporate Executive Board, Overcoming the Insight Deficit - Big Judgment in an Era of Big Data, the authors correctly point out the era of “Big Data” (see my blog Big Data: An Elephant in Your Room?) does not mean a parallel leap forward in employee analytical and judgment abilities. In fact, it is arguable that the greater volume of data and the greater emphasis on “fact-based” decision will put organizations at risk due to faulty analyses.
This risk is real according to the authors because they contend less than 40% of employees have access to the necessary “skills and processes” for successfully assessing the burgeoning volume of data.
It is not surprising, therefore, that one of the key recommendations of the study is “Educate employees on the limitations of data”.
This education can come in the form of improving critical thinking skills. Colorado-based consultant Scott Halford authored the following checklist that puts the elements of critical thinking in perspective:
1. Clarity - Could you illustrate what you mean? Could you give examples?
2. Accuracy - How could you find out if that is true?
3. Precision - Could you be more specific? Could you give more details?
4. Relevance - How does the data relate to the problem?
5. Depth - What difficulties arise that we may need to deal with?
6. Breadth - Do we need to look at this problem from another perspective?
7. Logic - Does the data make sense together?
8. Significance - What is the most important problem to consider?
9. Fairness - Do you have biases that will affect the outcome?
Source: Complete Intelligence LLC via First Data Corporation; CFO Executive Board research.
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Analysts trained to consistently incorporate these elements into their practice will provide the organization with greatly enhanced decision support.