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CEB: Companies Must Combine Big Judgment With Big Data

A recent survey from Corporate Executive Board reveals that the majority of employees lack the skills needed to make effective data-driven business decisions.

Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Executive Board (CEB) recently surveyed about 5,000 employees at global companies about their decision-making abilities. The results of that research are somewhat alarming: CEB found that more than 60 percent of people surveyed lack the skills required to make good business decisions. On top of that, more than 50 percent of senior managers surveyed lack analytical skills and processes.

Also according to the survey results, a typical employee has trouble using data effectively. Forty-three percent of employees surveyed trust data without question, while nearly 20 percent dismiss data-driven decisions and go with a "gut" feeling instead. Only 38 percent of the workers surveyed are what CEB calls "informed skeptics," or people that can effectively balance judgement and data, possess strong analytical skills and also take into account the opinions of others. These employees, says CEB, are best equipped to make good business decisions.

Although companies often make big investments in business intelligence tools, according to CEB, they won't be able to use them to boost competition and drive performance until employees are able to complement data with good judgement. Fixing this issue is critical to preventing more crises in the financial industry, suggests the company.

"To overcome the insight deficit, big data -- no matter how comprehensive or well analyzed -- needs to be complemented by 'big judgment,'" said Shvetank Shah, executive director at CEB, in a statement issued with the survey results. "Recent financial and business events show all too plainly what happens when rich data and analytics collide with lapses in judgment. Leaders need to ensure that organizational processes and human capabilities keep pace with their computing firepower and the information they import, or we will inevitably see more crises emerge."

The company says that businesses can overcome what they're identifying as an emerging insight deficit in the workforce by taking steps to cultivate more informed skeptics. These steps include educating employees on the limitations of data, developing an analytical training curriculum and building a team of analyst coaches. To help companies with this process, CEB is offering more advice, tools and resources at

Related article: Big Data: Don't Miss the Big Picture

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