Data vs. Experience

Polling data is a media driven obsession. One or two or three points up or down.  Comparative ups and downs. Trends reflecting reactions to questions, often with little contextual differences.

Edwin Friedman (A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix) links the obsessive emphasis on copious amounts of data (“Data Junkyards”) to the existence of chronic organizational anxiety. Friedman writes:

An obsession with data and technique…has become a form of addiction and turns professionals into data-junkies and their information into data junkyards. As a result, decision-makers avoid or deny the very emotional processes within their families, their institutions, and within society itself that might contribute to their institution’s “persistence of form.” (This phrase is borrowed from biology, which tries to understand the uncanny self-organizing ability of some embryos that duplicate themselves even after some of their parts have been rearranged or cut away.)

Over focus on data (process) impairs the capacity to operate on higher levels of learned experiences, critical thinking and – as contradictory as this may seem – situational awareness.

As the data junkie mines information, he or she separates from the exercise of deeper inquiry into “what/why”?




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