Another great post from Jon Ingham drawing attention to Edward De Bono's quote about finding issues in our data:

"I was in the desert and our guide was explaining the spikes on the local cacti. 'It's so they don't get eaten,' he said. 'No, it's not,' I said. 'The spikes help keep the air around the plant still, to minimise evaporation.' Everyone thinks it's to stop animals eating them. They looked at the data and came up with the idea. And that became the received wisdom. In fact, it's the wrong idea. Many organizations believe that if they collect enough data in their computers that will set their strategy for them. In fact, unless you see the data in different ways, you will be stuck with the same old notions."

It's a great analogy, but there are several ways that myths and data cross each other's paths, including:

  1. Like the cactus example, when we look only at the data and assume the wrong "truth" from what we see. It's a tough one to solve, but we need to be careful not to assume that the most obvious issue really IS the issue. Asking people to "see the data in different ways" is tough - but worth it. Some techniques include scenario planning and backcasting ("what ways might we have got here"), but I think that what we really need is a generous pinch of devil's advocacy - as workforce planners we think of alternate reasons, and ask "why" and "why not" about them to the business
  2. The flip side of this problem - when we assume we know "the truth" and have never validated it with our data. This is like a workforce urban legend, where somehow the group have come to believe that a situation is true, and never "asked the question of the data". These workforce legends are not always explicit, but when they are it pays to question them and check the data! It also pays to provide the business with more than just a simple set of figures - well thought out presentation of information can help us to bring these assumptions out into the open and stimulate good dialog about them....occasionally even leading to them being debunked!

There are others - any that you are experiencing?