How Much Information is Enough to Make a Decision? It Depends Upon Whom You Ask

How Much Information is Enough to Make a Decision? It Depends Upon Whom You Ask

Working with a cross-functional chemical development team recently, I saw once again a familiar element of team dynamics surface. The context was this: the organization was at a critical stage in terms of the evolution of its business. Decisions needed to be made about what ventures would become or remain the team’s priority projects. The questions were very significant: Where would resources be allocated? What is the market forecast for the team’s products? In what direction are we going? In answering these questions necessary to move forward, people wanted information- statistical and industry data, trends, forecasts, etc. But how much information is enough? How much information must we have to make an informed decision?

What become strikingly clear is that reasonable minds (and the reasonable people who employ these minds) can differ in answering this question. Some wanted a complete and thorough review of all the available information, and were not prepared to express a decision unless and until additional data was gathered/learned. Others on the team had more than enough data and, in fact, became frustrated that decisions were not being made more quickly (Can’t we just make a decision already?).

As the consultant in the room supporting the team in its decision-making process, it was not my role to make any judgments about whether there was ‘enough’ information to decide. However it was clear to me that the team members needed to agree on the appropriate degree of input needed to make decisions if they were going to achieve their stated objectives. So I facilitated a process that enabled them to clarify how much information they needed.

Highly-successful people can differ widely in their views of how much information they need to make decisions. This is an interesting aspect of individual diversity, one that transcends more traditional definitions of diversity (and frankly is more relevant than traditional elements of diversity). As with all aspects of diversity, there is no right and wrong here- only the reality of difference. What should be kept in mind is that answering the ‘how much information is enough’ question is a prerequisite to answering a business most important questions.

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