Of the three profiles of knowledge workers who use information daily to make decisions, one profile consistently leads the pack. Our cross-industry survey of over 8,000 knowledge workers shows that Informed Skeptics perform, on average, 24% better than their peers across a wide range of metrics like productivity and effectiveness. They do not trust the results of data analysis blindly, nor do they go by gut feel alone. Instead they balance analysis with judgment leading to higher quality of decisions.
Now if the ‘skeptic’ in you is questioning how this applies to your organization, if at all, then you’re on the right blog! Here are four questions we hear from CIOs about Informed Skepticism:
1. “My job is to provide information. Why should I worry about how it’s used?”
Because the ROI of your information projects depends on it. The Insight IQ model we built last year to quantify employees’ ability to make data-based decisions tests for three elements: information attainability, usefulness, and employee capability. Fixing two out of three only gets you 27% of the way, but all three together boost likelihood of achieving favorable ROI up to 80%. And by employee capability I mean Informed Skepticism. CIOs cannot inflect this alone though, and need strong business leader involvement.
2. “I just got people to start trusting data. Now I must tell them to be skeptical about it?”
Yes and no. On average, 43% of your company’s staff rely excessively on analysis, while 20% make decisions purely by intuition. The challenge is to coach both these segments to find the right balance between analysis and intuition. Let’s face it – there is more data than IT can feasibly process, we just don’t have the analytical horsepower yet. So inevitably employees must sift through a lot of ‘noise’ to find true insight. And to do it productively and effectively requires judgment.
3. “But isn’t judgment an innate quality? How can I coach staff to be skeptical?”
Judgment is a combination of common sense and experiential wisdom, and yes, some of it is innate and some coachable (see Andrew’s post on Three ways to Build Judgment). But often it’s already there, yet 43% of your staff fails to apply it. Our research shows that judgment can be made actionable by outlining a series of deliberate steps to – ask probing questions, document situational context, verify information sources, and challenge assumptions. Embedding simple tools like interview guides and scenario testing into the analysis workflow purposely leads staff to exercise judgment.
4. “How skeptical is too skeptical? Where does one draw the line?”
Informed Skeptics not only validate analysis with judgment, they also validate their judgment with that of their peers, thus using ‘wisdom of crowds’ to keep each other’s skepticism in check. Drive a spirit of collaborative confrontation that encourages peers to socialize insights, listen to each other, and be comfortable with dissent. Obviously excessive skepticism is bad, but arguably most corporate cultures suffer from group-think and are not nearly skeptical enough.
For more information and tools to foster Informed Skepticism, see our latest study, From Big Data to Better Decisions.