Recently, a client asked me to help him with his leadership team. He said, “They are mired in data. They don’t seem to know what the data is telling us, and the less sure they are, the more charts I see.”
Having recently hosted a breakfast for executives entitled “Big Data or Big Ideas” this was timely. I chose the topic for my meeting because I frequently see smart, experienced people mired in superfluous nonsense masquerading as information.
How do you avoid this trap? First, you must know where you stand. Ask yourself:
1. On what do I spend my mental energy?
2. Do I reward analysis or thinking?
3. What am I learning?
4. Where is my focus?
5. What will I not allow to alter my perspective?
Answering these questions requires thought. This is the hard work that is often displaced. Not for lack of time so much as by lack of perspective.
Second, you must appreciate that, as a leader, you must maintain the perspective that others cannot. By virtue of your position, and presumably talent and experience, you should be able to develop a point of view creates a compelling and cohesive vision-more like a kaleidoscope than a microscope.
Third, you must avoid methodology worship. The best description of this is from Peter Drucker, writing to Russell Acoff. He said, “We had successfully solved several major production and technical problems for these companies (GE and AT&T)—and my clients were highly satisfied. But I was not—we had solved TECHNICAL problems but our work had no impact on the organizations and on their mindsets. On the contrary: we had all but convinced the managements of these two big companies that QUANTITATIVE MANIPULATION was a substitute for THINKING.”
The most important decision is-where will you stand? This will determine your perspective. You need to be high enough to have a broad view without being in the clouds.