Evidence-based decision-making

We all know this ideal is far from reality, but in Is Decision-Based Evidence Making Necessarily Bad?, Sloan Mgmt Review offers 3 levels to define the role of evidence: 

  • to make a decision – when data really does lead to a decision
  • to inform a decision – when other factors such as judgment and bargaining play a role too
  • to support a decision – when data is looked for that confirms the decision, and crucially, when disconfirming evidence is avoided or rejected.

They make a case that such ‘decision-based evidence-making’ (!) is not necessarily bad, but seem instead to make a case for the middle category – using what useful evidence can be had, plus judgment – and offer tips:

  1. Assess how much potential there is for evidence to support a certain decision.
  2. Weigh the costs, benefits and risks of seeking and using evidence.
  3. Differentiate between internal and external audiences in the use of evidence.
  4. Make sure evidence gathered at cost and effort is reflected in decisions (assuming you looked for the right evidence, I guess).

Good tips – and I wonder how often we genuinely step back and think about these issues, rather than just get on with it?


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