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June 5, 2014

America and Asia-Pacific more ‘data-driven’ than Europe

Business leaders also question data that contradicts their ‘gut feeling’.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Business leaders from North America and Asia-Pacific are more "data driven" than their European counterparts, who describe their decision-making style as "collaborative", according to research.

The study from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) also found that ‘gut feeling’ remains an important factor in decision-making worldwide even when there is plenty of data available.

Pete Swabey, senior editor at the EIU which produced the report, told CBR: "The research shows that both the US and Asia, out of the general sample, were more likely to describe themselves as data driven, whereas in Europe the collaborative decision-making style is the most common answer.

"The reason to make decisions more collaborative is not just to make the output better but it is to build consensus for those decisions. So if you’ve included people in the process, by which a decision was taken, then you’ve persuaded them of the wisdom of the decision."

The research also found that nine in every 10 of the 174 executives surveyed said if the available data contradicted their intuition, that they would reanalyse it, ignore it or gather more data.

Another 73% of respondents said they trust their own decision when it comes to decision-making, while just 10% said they would take the course of action suggested by the data.

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Dan Humble, director of insights and research at Alliance, told the researchers that intuition can act as a warning sign when there may be something wrong with the way the data is analysed.

"It might be that your perspective isn’t wide enough, and you need some more data about the market, for example, to understand the context of your own data," he said.

Stefan Thomke, William Barclay Harding professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, added that intuition should be handled with caution, particularly when dealing with new situations.

"When there is a high degree of novelty, our insights and experience are limited at best or at worst deeply misguided," he said. "Often they lead us to the wrong conclusions."

The research also found 59% said that their approach to decision-making was data-driven or empirical.

Swabey added: "We’re in an era of evidence-driven management. If you were to say outright ‘I’m taking this big decision in a board meeting because I feel like it’, you might be run out of town.

"It’s not that you’re either using intuition or your using data. The combination is more complicated than that."

When asked what they believed would improve decision-making within their organisation, 53% said ‘better ability to analyse data’ and 22% cited ‘running more trials or tests before making a decision’

The EIU report, which was commissioned by Applied Predictive Technologies, surveyed executives from organisations worldwide to explore how they make decisions.


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