Question Rich, Answer Poor

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How can you make a decision when you don’t have the facts?

In truth, it happens every day. The answer is that you just make a guess. Often, the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) is the one people adopt. Here is a noteworthy quote:

If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.  

– Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO

Data in this case is based on research. Questions like

  • How many people will use this?
  • How much will they stress the system?
  • How much money will it cost?
  • How much money will we make?
  • What does barely successful look like? (Not wildly successful, where is the line?)
  • Why would this make a difference in people’s lives?
  • Who else does this? How will we be 10x better than them?
  • And many more…

How do you make decisions when the answer to most of your questions are sketchy or guesswork.

Interviewing customers only get you so far. A few anecdotal stories about customers doesn’t prove a thing. People often mistake a random anecdote for statistical confidence and validation.

The reality is that we make decisions based on faulty data because we aren’t very good communicators and we meet about the decisions in large groups. A committee is especially bad at decision making and communication.

There is no easy answer because we are slaves to our own communication limits. However, you could move the needle a little by demanding answers to questions. The only problem there is that people will resent you for asking.

Some blog posts don’t have a happy ending. Sorry.


Whatya think?