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In these days of big data, organizations are encouraged to embrace data-driven decision-making. “Trust the data!” becomes the grease on the wheels of success.
And yet, when provided access to the same data, different people arrive at different conclusions. Business leaders, politicians, and others will take a variety of actions based upon the same data. Why?
You cannot remove the human element.
Occasionally I stumble upon the quote, “Data is the seed…information is the crop…knowledge is the harvest.” How data becomes information and knowledge seems to make all the difference. In fact, I’ve seen self-proclaimed “data-driven organizations” intentionally take action directly counter to the data presented to and understood by them. They do this because they process the data through their purposes and priorities (and, perhaps, their politics) to arrive at meaningful information and knowledgeable action.
Big or small, data is an extremely valuable input, but it’s not the driver.
Purpose is the driver. Purpose drives it all – individuals, organizations, communities…everything.
Well-known living systems author Margaret Wheatley lays this out in her book, The Community of the Future. She observes that communities (i.e., organizations, neighborhoods, nations) driven by a common purpose support both an individual’s self-determination and their need for interpersonal relationships.
She suggests that an organization, community or any other entity achieves clarity of purpose and then lets each contribute to that purpose in his/her own way. This approach draws upon the energy created within the paradox of individual freedom and connected community, attracting people to the entity without asking them to shed their uniqueness.
While the human element may be messy at times, it brings the determination, vitality, and resilience required to develop effective, stable and sustainable entities. Plus it provides the security to reach out and collaborate with those around them.
So gather good data and give it your serious attention. But let your purpose be your driver.