Company X is a global Fortune 500 retailer and leader in digital transformation. The company has invested millions to transition to modern data architectures and business analysis tools. Yet there’s one place that the transition lags: decision-making with data.
The promise of big data was that it would make decisions easier, more certain, and infallible. We would be able to make perfect decisions. But the reality at Company X was that big data was making decisions harder. At the same time as intuition was becoming increasingly unreliable for decision-making, people weren’t ready to use data for decision-making in a meaningful, reliable, and trustworthy way.
Beginning in 2020, Sonder Studio worked with Company X to develop a training program to support the cultural transition to making better decisions with data.
First, we helped people recognize that big data confounds their evolved intuitions. Abstract quantities such as numbers and data violate the principles of our spatial reasoning, which is why they can be so hard to think about. We helped people understand how to approach data with the right questions so that they could establish context, guide analysis, critique conclusions, and most importantly, find the meaning in the data.
Second, we helped people understand that data is not the full representation of truth and gave them skills for what else they need to do. Yes, data is measurable and quantifiable. But quantifiable isn’t the same as accuracy and certainty. Ultimately the decision to decide and act is an integration and synthesis of intuition and data. All decisions require judgment to resolve uncertainty and ambiguity.
We helped Company X’s employees become better tactical decision-makers. People became more comfortable with uncertainty and more skilled at evaluating unknowns in the data. This reduced analysis paralysis and decision-stuckness, providing clarity and enhancing decision-leadership abilities.
Third, we helped Company X lay the groundwork for AI-readiness: understanding how to adopt probabilistic thinking and different styles of reasoning for the complex digital age. Employees are now more flexible and creative in their decision-making which means Company X can innovate faster and more collaboratively.
To make better decisions with data, we need more than better decision methods using the powerful tools of statistics and AI—we need better decision-makers, people who understand how humans make decisions in complex social situations.
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