Ask a group of fishermen about the best way to catch a fish, and you’ll be entertained for hours.
Almost every keen angler has their own theory of tide, time, and tackle.
Some prefer fishing in the evening, some in the early morning. Some prefer live bait, whilst others go for a lure. A Google search on whether it’s best to fish on the low or high tide will generate 35 million answers, leaving you with no clear indication of whether one approach is better than the other.
So, does that mean the art of fishing is entirely subjective?
When it comes to getting a bite on the end of your line, there are some generally agreed best practices. It’s just that they don’t always work. And what’s effective in one part of the stream might be useless in another. Local knowledge goes a long way, but so do patience and perseverance.
The best advice for a novice angler: do a bit of research, listen to the locals and get out on the water.
The mistake some people make is thinking that if they don’t catch a fish, they just need to do more research and wait for the perfect conditions. The problem with that approach is that most of us have a finite amount of leisure time, the ideal conditions might never appear, and sometimes the fish just aren’t biting.
We’d like to think we can control all the variables, but we can’t.
The same is true regarding decision-making, and one of the most common mistakes seen in boardrooms is the notorious ‘request for additional information’.
Bid data and decision making
It is a universal truth that there’s rarely been a company in the world that made a better decision by acquiring additional data.
In recent times the advent of ‘big data’ has been revolutionary in providing intelligence, insight, and accuracy to decision-making teams. The volume and complexity of data now available enables advanced analysis of inputs unprecedented in human history.
However, there is a risk that some leaders will begin to rely on data so much that they think it will make the decisions for them.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting data to back up your strategy. In fact, we encourage it. What matters more is the overall decision process. A 2010 study of more than 2000 executives backs this up. The research found the quality of process contributed to better decisions more than the quantity of analysis by a factor of six.
As with fishing, there comes the point of diminishing returns, and no amount of additional inputs is guaranteed to improve the overall decision. In fact, extra information will more likely contribute to indecision which adds to cost and delay.
Use the data to your advantage, but don’t let it keep you from getting out on the water.
-  “The Case for Behavioral Strategy”, Dan Lovallo and Olivier Sib, McKinsey Quarterly, March 2010