We live in an age of information overload. There can hardly be an executive in the world who doesn’t regularly type a question into Google and obtain thousands of answers within milliseconds. Our computerised systems at work hold hundreds if not thousands of filing cabinets of data which we can access through word searches. And if this is not enough, we can turn to the market research community who will carry out a survey at a tenth of the cost in real terms of 30 years ago. In other words when it comes to market intelligence we have never had it so good.
So why therefore do we sometimes find it difficult to make business decisions?
One reason is that despite the enormous amount of information available to us, some of it is not clear and some of it is in conflict. This means that our judgement and interpretation of the data is still vital. Consider the following paradigm in which a decision maker may have a choice of internally collected data versus externally collected data and that which may be considered objective verses that which is subjective.
Most of us would intuitively believe that external data that is objective is to be trusted more than data that has come from opinions inside the company. However, the old guy with grey hair who has given an internal opinion may have synthesised years of data and his view could be worth far more than the number crunching survey that skimmed the surface. Of course, it could also be worthless as he could be a vacuous mouth with one year’s experience repeated 30 times.
So the difficulty in using market intelligence is fusing data together and working out which bits are to be trusted and which are not. It is for this reason that the workshop approach to delivering findings has become so popular. The research agency is able to put the findings from their survey on the table and invite all participants at the workshop to share their own knowledge and help in its interpretation. In this way disputes as to the meaning and value of data can be resolved and actions can be agreed.