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How influx of data can hurt our decision-making
New Oracle report finds the sheer volume of data we receive daily doesn’t necessarily mean more informed decisions.
An abundance of data is like a canvas filled with many colors. Each day, we are bombarded with various shades and shapes in the form of emails, phone calls, and meetings, which add to the canvas. However, it is important to realize that having more on the canvas does not necessarily result in a better painting; it can lead to clutter.
Just as a painter steps back to assess their work, it is essential to step back from the overwhelming data deluge and contemplate what is truly crucial. But can data overload be an issue? According to a recent survey by Oracle, the answer is an unequivocal yes: to most respondents. The study of more than 14,000 employees and business leaders across 17 countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, found that people are struggling to make personal and professional decisions when they are being forced to make more decisions than ever before. It was revealed that “decision paralysis” is becoming more common.
The Decision Dilemma found that 85% of respondents experienced decision distress – regret over past decisions made in the previous year, while 72% of the participants said that data had prevented them from making decisions, leading to decision paralysis.
So what do people in a post-data world do with the influx of data? Where lies their biggest challenge? Is it availability or access or the lack of context that cripples decision-making?
We spoke with T.K. Anand, Executive Vice President at Oracle, in Abu Dhabi, at the report’s launch to understand the key findings and the way forward.
DECISION ANXIETY, INERTIA, AND PARALYSIS
Decision-making can be a calculative process or one that is based on pure instinct. Depending on the leadership style, decision- making can vary based on personalities, vision, and foresight. According to Anand, the report’s findings highlight that respondents feel confident in decisions based on data instead of a gut feeling. “So people have come a long way in the business world,” he says.
As per the findings, 83% of people agree that access to more data should make decisions easier, but 86% said that even with more data, they feel less confident making decisions.
The main issue when it comes to data, as expressed by a range of respondents, is that people cannot make sense of the data they are inundated with daily.
Data availability doesn’t allow you to extract the nuggets of information that can help guide your decisions. “What people are telling us is that ability is reserved to a class of data experts,” Anand says.
The anxiety that arises from having an abundance of data readily available but limited time to use it is the issue at hand.
According to Anand, the restricted resources when making decisions is not the data itself but the time to process it. As per the report, a considerable number of individuals become so inundated with data at the time of decision-making that they cannot make a decision.
Where lies the solution?
NEED FOR QUANTUM CHANGE
Today, businesses employ data to enhance growth and streamline operations across all sectors. Furthermore, the emergence of a new class of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to assist businesses in working with their data implies that relying on guesswork and gut instinct to make decisions is no longer necessary.
Therefore it’s not the availability or access of tools that’s an issue; it’s the lack of interoperability between the two worlds of data and interpretation. Anand notes, “The quantum jump we need is not to treat data analysis as a separate activity in decision-making.”
Interestingly, the report found that 64% of individuals, and this percentage increases to 70% when considering business leaders exclusively, would occasionally prefer to delegate decisions to AI.
According to Anand, more than the fact that people rely on AI tools, this finding highlights that people increasingly need help. To turn data into insightful impact, finding the right data within the context of the decision being made is important.
“The right data, in the right form at the right time, is key,” Anand says.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE DILEMMA
How do we find our way out? Does more data mean anxiety, organizational inertia, and uncertainty?
“We need to make progress in contextualized data-driven decisions, wherein the focus is on where the person is making a decision and apply data in that context as opposed to giving them a canvas with lots of data upon which to conclude.”
There needs to be an industry shift in how we measure decisions. “Perhaps that could mean not having to ask: did technology help make the decision, or did the person make the decision? Let’s leave that outside the picture. We need to start focusing on questions like: Was the decision a quality decision? No one looks at that, right?”
“Once we decide to the best extent of our knowledge – whether it is data-driven or not, whether this is a smart decision or not – let’s capture it and then measure the effectiveness and ask ourselves, “what have we learned from that?”