Anyone who has spoken with me over the past month knows how I feel about winter. “Intense dislike” is a huge understatement. So I look forward to Groundhog Day as the first indicator as to when this frozen hell is going to end. I know it all derives from a pagan ritual, I know it may or may not be accurate, but PLEASE – it’s a glimmer of hope and the results are in.Of course, I also have a business lesson from those results. You see, two of the main prognosticators – Puxsatawny Phil and Dunkirk Dave – disagree. Phil saw his shadow and thinks we have 6 weeks of winter left – Dave believes we’re heading for an early spring (my MAN!). Much as was the case with last night’s game, the accuracy of the predictions will be clear soon.
What do you do when you have conflicting information? It’s not uncommon to look at sales reports or web data to pull multiple, often conflicting answers from the numbers. How does one decide on a course of action? It’s like sitting in your car and having the navigation system tell you to go left or right when what you need is some accurate, timely, precise answers!
First, ask more questions. Sometimes you can find common ground between the conflicting data if you dig deeper.
Second, maybe they’re both right and both wrong. I can’t think of a better time when living with uncertainty has been the watchword! In this case, maybe winter will end in 5 weeks – not really early but not six weeks either.
Third, bring in more eyes. Involve smart peers if you can. Hire me or someone like me. Put the reports in a drawer and look again in a few hours with a fresh mind.
Finally, remember that most reports have some margin of error or weakness in how they gather their data, especially if it’s predictive. Make the best decision you can based on the information you have but recognize that whatever it is you DO have is probably not perfect so an alternate plan is probably a good idea. The data only has to be good enough so that you can use it to predict a course of action that accomplishes your goal, even if the actual outcome isn’t precise.
For example, the prediction I offered in this space last week on the Super Bowl was not perfect (I said 31-24 Steelers – a Pitt win by 7 and 55 total points) but it was accurate enough that had you followed it you parlayed taking the points and the Cardinals to the over and won! Let’s see Puxsatawny Phil or Dunkirk Dave predict THAT!
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