When Facts Aren't Enough: Making Wise Business Decisions

A computer programmer argues that good business decisions require not just information, but analysis and responsibility. These together lead to wise and sensible decisions.

Information = data or facts.

Understanding = a grasp of the meaning (significance) of data.

Knowledge = certainty of data. (Knowledge is only as valid as the data on which it is based).

Wisdom =
1) the proper evaluation of the relative importances of data
2) knowing what data to use and how/when it should be used
3) the relationship of data to the greatest good

The application of wisdom involves responsibility.

Responsibility = a willingness to do, or not do, a given thing and the willingness to be accountable for the results of doing or not doing that given thing.

Wisdom and responsibility are necessarily companions.

Clearly data alone is not enough. Once you confirm the data, you must understand it. When you fully grasp it, it can be called knowledge. Then you must assess its relative importance along with other data must be assessed. The final step is how it relates to the greatest good, or survival, within its context.

Your accountant tells you that you can improve your bottom line by $200,000 a year if you lay off the four most senior staff, replacing them with recent graduates.
-- This is data.

You review the data (salaries, benefits, etc.) and find that it is true. You do the math and understand how it would work, and you are certain of it.
-- Now it's knowledge.

You understand the relative importance of improved profits for the stockholders and the personal bonus benefits you will receive.

However, you also know how firing your four top guys will impact the morale of the remaining staff. You know from experience that they will feel less loyalty and be less productive, costing you, in the end, more than the savings. You also remember that you promised your people that they would benefit when the company did. You evaluate the good/bad effects in a wide enough scope to appreciate the short and long term results of the action.
-- Now you're applying wisdom.

You decide to thank your accountant for his assessment, keep your top four guys, publish a commendation and raise for them, and write a memo to your senior Vice President for Organizational Efficiency, asking him to examine the work flow for places to save wasted motion to improve product throughput.
-- Wisdom applied with responsibility.

A final note: "knowledge" is not always static. Certain data will always be true, others will change with the growth of such things as population or technology. Renew your knowledge from time to time.

Garry Hamilton is a Consulting Programmer in assembly, C, and database languages, for platforms from CP/M and DOS to Windows and UNIX (alright, so that's 18 years). Current work includes a terabyte data warehouse and paperless enterprise applications. Other disciplines: business communication and organization.


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