The Fallacy of Data Based Decision Making

by | Jan 4, 2020 | ICT4D |

It must be true because the data told me so.

The data made me do it.

There continues to be talk of needing ‘better data and evidenced based decision making’ in much of the social sector. I suspect this will be case for many years to come. Partly because we will continue to believe we can and will strive to improve our decision making. But also partly because of we buy into the belief that technology will save the world.

Data and evidenced based decision making contains the assumption that emotions, intuition, and so on are bad and should not play decision making. In some ways this view appears to want us to strip out the human part of decision making and turn it over to algorithms and robots. There also is the notion that there is only one way to interpret the data & ‘evidence; that there is only one right answer.

The perspective that rarely gets discussed in these conversations is that different people, even different algorithms, will interpret the data differently. So who is deciding is a critical question. Additionally, while we live in an age of information, we also live in an age of misinformation. Therefore the filters we (or algorithms) use to determine which data is deemed to be valid and thereby included is also critical.

Data and evidence based decision making has its place. And in many situations we need to consider the data more than we currently do. It needs to have a seat at the decision making table. However, data will not save us. We need, no we must have multiple perspectives. We need to show up and bring all of our humanity to decision making – our logic, our intuition, our compassion, our emotions, our forgiveness – all of us. And of course we need a diverse group of humans involved, not just one or one ‘type’.

We can show up with our whole selves. The choice is up to us.

Photo by Brandon Lopez


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