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Data Decisions or Instinct? Expand / Collapse
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Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:10 PM


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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Data Decisions or Instinct?






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Post #1595778
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 3:02 AM
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In relation to this question I would recommend everyone read at least the first section of 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman. It goes into great detail about the way our instinctive and rational thought processes interact with a particular emphasis on judgement and decision making.

The short version is that while instinct can offer valuable insight from the qualitative, rather than quantitative realm it is not to be fully trusted. Instinct will often substitute a much simpler question for the one you are actually asking e.g. 'Is this product any good?' with 'Do I like the salesperson?'

The book also emphasizes just how poorly even statisticians are at thinking in terms of probabilities.

The overall message is take a look at where your instincts want to take you, but ensure that the data backs it up, because your emotions/instinct are too quick to jump to incorrect conclusions.
Post #1595825
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 3:06 AM


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The more I have learned about cognitive biases the more I wonder how anyone has ever got anything right. However much you think you have taken that step back and thought it through these biases will always play their part in how we interpret the data and come to whatever conclusion, at least beyond a certain point of obviousness. That point of obviousness always seems to be passed quicker than you think, too.
Post #1595826
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 3:38 AM


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I think that we should be right to consider our instincts. As opposed to using that to override statistical analysis we should use it to question the analysis done and to drive further queries. This way we provide quantitative results which have considered the qualitative aspects too. To ignore the facts are wrong but so is to ignore our questioning of them too.

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Post #1595833
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 6:18 AM
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Steve,

Does this really apply to data professionals? I have been a programmer and data provider since 1982 and I have never been asked to interpret the data. It was always someone else's job to do that. I provide the data, the reports, and the Excel spreadsheets. I think that it is dangerous for the same person who is providing the data to be making decisions based on it. I just have to make certain that the data is correct and ahs not been corrupted, and, that it is reported correctly.

As far as how people make those decisions... I have seen both ends of the spectrum. One manager I know hardly reviews any data goes by emotion and gut feel. Another one pores over data for a very long time before coming to decisions. Amazingly, both tend to get it right. There are others who want to use data to justify their preconceptions and get angry when the data is "wrong" (different from their preconceptions). Most people are somewhere between the extremes.

Thanks,
Tom
Post #1595866
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 6:30 AM
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People including leaders constantly ignore the facts. "This country has dangerous weapons, we must invade!", "So and so says the right words about an emotional issue, so I'm voting for them.", "I don't care what the numbers say, climate change doesn't effect me...!", and so on...

I had someone tell me that complex applications needed to be hosted in the "cloud" because that's cheaper. They totally didn't want to hear the details of Stack Exchange, which buys their own servers to power one of the internets busier sites, because it's actually cheaper. Or they use a combination of Microsoft and OSS technology, because they are smart and pragmatic.

Once you learn that most humans are irrational, then you learn to deal with it. Or you may exploit the situation for your benefit, if that's your style...

Post #1595871
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 6:41 AM
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RP1966 (7/24/2014)
In relation to this question I would recommend everyone read at least the first section of 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman. It goes into great detail about the way our instinctive and rational thought processes interact with a particular emphasis on judgement and decision making.
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Good book


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The overall message is take a look at where your instincts want to take you, but ensure that the data backs it up, because your emotions/instinct are too quick to jump to incorrect conclusions.


If a person can learn from experience, and Kahnerman examples were Grand Master Chess players, Fire controllers, then yes intuition based on valid experience is very useful and can short cut the process. But, and it is a big but, where there is not verifiable experience then people can make mistakes, and then use data and false arguments to support their intuition all with good intentions.



Post #1595876
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 6:52 AM


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We should certainly look to data to guide us and perhaps even justify our decisions, but we can't forget that the human brain is still an important part of any computational exercise. We need employees that you use their judgement, in collaboration with data, to make the best decision for our organizations.


I agree.

While stories are great, I think the story should complement the data. People should be able to use their judgement and make informed decisions and many times that may involve relying on the gut feeling.




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Post #1595880
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 7:07 AM
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Data should inform our decisions, but data rarely sparks truly creative thoughts. Those 'leaps' often seem to come out of nowhere.

Our instincts are not just random junk. They are subconscious evaluation processes tuned my millions of years of evolution, particularly in the area of dealing with other humans (whether others in an organization, or customers (marketing) or competitors) friends or enemies. Various experiments have found that we can be remarkably accurate in our evalutation of others, even though a popular theme of movies is the person 'everyone is wrong about'.

The best judgement comes from a synthesis of honest data and instinct.


...

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Post #1595889
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 7:22 AM
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Steve, the way you describe it I think you're confusing ideas with evidence.

Data is never going to tell you what to do directly. For that you'd need an idea.
Once you have the idea the next part is collecting the evidence to tell you its a good one.
If you have several 'competing' ideas the evidence can then tell you which one is the best of the bunch.

Without the story line the collected data is just that: collected data. (e.g.if you had a database of the location of every atom in the Universe it still wouldn't tell you a whole lot about the Universe).

Chris.
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