Data, knowledge and wisdom: three steps to make smarter decisions

Use this three-part sequence to make better and smarter decisions.

Use this three-part sequence to make better and smarter decisions.

We live in an amazing world these days, where information is accessible to most. Search, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and so much more.

If you want a fact, you can get it. Most executives say, “We make fact-based decisions.” And, “We use data to drive our business strategy.” But facts are just the starting point to making good decisions.

We should all use this three-step sequence to make better decisions: “What? So what? Now what?”

For this post, pretend you’re a manager of a baseball team, and we’re talking about a starting baseball pitcher.

Data = What

DATA is an objective fact. Inarguable. Rock solid. It’s the “what” of all information. You need to know the facts, but you also need to know the “so what” of what that fact really represents. Let’s say your starting pitcher had a rough outing last night and left the game in just the third inning. His poor statistical line is an objective fact. But this data is just the start.

Knowledge = So what

With facts in hand, you’re ready for step two. That leads to KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge adds perspective to the data so we can enhance our understanding. What is the context or perspective regarding that fact? Is it a trend or an aberration? Is this the first time your starting pitcher had a bad outing, or is this a continuation of several poor starts in a row? Knowing the facts — and having the knowledge to understand the context of those facts — moves us along the decision-making spectrum.

Wisdom = Now what

With both data and knowledge firmly in mind, you’re finally ready for WISDOM: Now, what are you going to do?

Wisdom is the “now, what” of how to apply your knowledge. Is it time to bench the starting pitcher, demote him to the minor leagues or the bullpen, or should you let him continue to pitch to work out of his slump? There is never a single absolutely right answer, but wisdom happens when you take the data, apply the knowledge and make your best decision.

Here’s another way to understand this construct: flip this sequence. To make wise decisions, we need to have an understanding of what’s really happened, and that perspective must be rooted in facts, not just opinions.

None of us are always correct in our decision-making. A study by Fortune Knowledge Group claims most executives rely on their gut to make decisions.

Keep the Data / Knowledge / Wisdom construct in the forefront of your decision-making process, and you'll make better choices. And that’s a fact!