The other day I jumped on the highway and drove north until I reached the first exit. When I reached the end of the exit ramp, I turned right and started looking for a certain store, the objective of my trip. This had to be the place, because my wife had told me, ‘…one exit up the interstate; right turn at the bottom of the off ramp; first shopping center on the right.”
After wandering about for a bit, I called the store and asked for directions. It was the next exit up the highway. What went wrong?
2 x Wrong = 1 x Right. In other words, two wrongs do make a right. (If you want to know the mathematical reasoning behind this phenomenon, read this. But I will expound a little bit…)
Leaders today are faced with some very tough decisions and frequently have to make those decisions with limited information. One of the critical pieces of information that a leader needs is the underlying assumptions of a model, the starting point for an analysis, the background information used to write the report, etc.
If I had known where to get on the highway, then my directions would have worked out. But sometimes intuition and qualitative information aren’t enough.
More importantly, if I had quantified my journey using mileage, exit numbers, and street names, it would have gone more smoothly. In fact, the only data I needed was the exit number, in this case. Leaders need information, but it’s not always a need for a plethora of data. However, the right piece of information always meets the leaders needs.
And almost without exception, the key assumptions underlying a problem or analysis ARE critical.