For someone immersed in the world of business analytics, there are a host of relevant concepts in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink . The latest section I read was entitled: “When Less is More." We’ve had a couple of blog posts along this line (Less data, more insight and Too much data, too little focus). As usual, the professional author offers a few delectable ways to appreciate this concept…
- He provides a great example in Cook County hospital’s ER where a simple algorithm proved more effective in diagnosing patients suffering from heart attacks than doctors grasping for all available data inputs. “The extra information is more than useless. It’s harmful. It confuses the issue."
- He finds that more information can create a false sense of security. In a study of psychologists, Gladwell quotes research Stuart Oskamp: “As they received more information, their certainty about their own decisions became entirely out of proportion to the actual correctness of those decisions." Decision-makers are nearly as desparate for confidence in their decisions as they are in making the right decision. As a result, they desire the pile o’ data as a safety net.
- Gladwell also emphasizes the need for frugality in using data. Identifying the important patterns in data only becomes harder as you add more levels of information. “To be a successful decision maker, we have to edit."
It is very satisfying to see that Mr. Gladwell has finally came around to my line of thinking.