Where does the assumption that better data causes better decisions come from?

I don’t know for sure.

But I can point to two possible sources:

  • The enlightenment and the scientific revolution
  • Robert McNamara and the Whiz Kid movement

The entire scientific method is predicated on data. A hypothesis is either accepted as truth or rejected as false based on the data. There is no other arbiter. Faith or strength of opinion has nothing to do with it. The data decides.

The assumption that greater knowledge causes greater outcomes flows from that fact. That, if you’re honest about being wrong, that everybody benefits. (Disturbingly, that trend may be reversing in The West, as negative findings have been disappearing from most disciplines.)

You might not be aware of it, but much of what we call Business Intelligence today really started taking off when Robert McNamara and the other whiz kids got back from the. Rule #6 from McNamara is “Get The Data”:

“Even if you don’t have the resources to access everything you need, start with what you have, even that data will show you where to go.”

The great grandfather of the discipline of Operations Research, the great trunk from which marketing science and information management branched off, is based off the assumption that data causes better decisions.

Is that assumption credible?

After all, that does seem to be at the root of those staunchly against Big Data Analytics.


I’m Christopher Berry.
I tweet about analytics @cjpberry
I write at christopherberry.ca