”Facts are stupid things”, Ronald Reagan once said. But in Business Intelligence we believe that facts are just about the most important thing in the new world. Way up there, with God (Bill Inmon) and the ‘single version of the truth’. So, if facts are stupid what happens with our beloved area of expertise: BI. Let’s take a look at what Reagan meant instead of what he said. For starters, he misquoted somebody else. What he really wanted to say was: ”facts are stubborn things”. Ah, well. That we can agree on. A fact is a fact is a fact. And shall remain unchanged forever and ever, amen. But the message he tried to bring across was that facts are one thing but the way they are perceived can be completely different. This brings me to cognitive dissonance. This is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. New facts that rock the world you already believe in and perceive as being true. One possibility is to just ignore those new facts. The simple solution is often first resistance and after that ignorance. The other position is to be open to change and explore these new facts. Interpretation of these facts is then determined by its context. With that I mean that a number – let’s say 100 – only has value if you know if it applies to meters or miles, turnover or monthly salary. Also some facts have meaning for some but none for others. Accountants and sales people view the world differently and will therefore have different interpretations or even interest of let’s say turnover. Instead of working towards some kind of shared single version of the truth, we should write down the context or definition of each fact. With that you know if you can ignore or explore and decide if facts are really stupid.
Posted August 21, 2009 1:27 PM
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