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Sunday, 30 March 2014

How Much Do You Use Research in Your Business? It Could Change Your Whole Approach!

My good friend and former Vistage member, David Caton Roberts, recently posted a flow chart which had a great deal of resonance for me.

It said: 

·       Data--information--knowledge--understanding--wisdom. 

I would ask some initial questions and those are; what is the purpose of the search?  why do we need to know more about something?  what do we propose to do with the results when they have been established and verified? 

It reminded me of Herb Meyer, a brilliant Vistage speaker who had been in a very senior position in the CIA, who made the point very succinctly that the fist necessity is to gather as much data as possible and frankly, that is relatively simple in these days of highly effective online search facilities. 

It may well be a different matter for the CIA, NSA, MI5 and 6, GCHQ and so on where the data gathering exercise is way out of our normal reach, but for the ordinary mortal wishing to know more about salient factors in business, then it is a simple task. 

However, what we finish up with is a vast amount of uncoordinated data through which we need to trawl to establish the really important aspects of our requirement. 

That is the analytical phase of the exercise and is probably the most complex and important factor.  Unless we are able to cut through the dross (and there will be plenty), drill down and determine what is truly relevant then the whole project will founder. 

Again, each phase of the research needs to be rigorously tested against the initial questions; are we fulfilling the purpose, are we gaining from the work and will we be able to take action as a consequence of it? 

That is a significant question and one which does not appear on the original flow chart.  One must assume that the purpose of research of this nature in business is to take action on as low a risk profile as possible.   

The key is to take action and it is essential to decide at some point in the research process whether there is sufficient valid information available to mitigate the risk and to enable action to be taken. 

Having reduced the mass of data to a manageable size which can now be defined as information, the next step is to reduce it further as Heb Meyer says to intelligence and that is in the security sense. 

David Roberts’ chart calls it knowledge and in the halls of academia through which he now prowls that is a perfectly acceptable definition.  However in the business world when decisions need to be made and actioned it is better, I would suggest, to consider this phase as intelligence which permits action to be taken. 

In the true learning experience this would lead to understanding and when properly validated and used leads on to wisdom, a consummation devoutly to be desired in that environment. 

That is not to say that business leaders do not gain wisdom; rather for them it comes through the accumulated experience of success and the occasional failure and that can be a hard school. 

The ancient Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah defines the whole process as intuition leading to understanding which leads to knowledge and hence wisdom.  Perhaps we need a few more business leaders who understand the process and put it into action.  It really does work.

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