How to Make Decision Making More Adaptable with Layers

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Co-authored with Chris Curran

Never before has such a mass of data existed. Needless to say, all this information complicates the decision-making process. Businesses need new strategies to answer the biggest question:

How do we effectively sift through the mountain of information to gain valuable insights.

Layers is a term we use for visual information systems that combine publicly available and company-owned tools to present relevant and contextual information—in a format that starts with the decision and works in reverse.

By Layers, we’re referring to distinctive “chunks” of data that are presented within the construct of a decision, rather than in the context of a tool. Layers are also about leveraging data, tools, and innovation on the Web instead of starting from scratch.

Layers of information exist at all levels—individual, company, market, industry, country, and international.

They are what help us visualize the different levels of data and how we can put them together in ways that support a particular insight. More powerful than a tool, layers comprise an “organizational solution”—a visual way to sort and sift a mass of information and arrive at an insight efficiently, effectively, and by putting all employees on the same page to create buy-in.

So why aren’t organizations making more progress in adopting layering options? Simply put, you can either embrace the flood of data or ignore it. Here are a few observations that may make it easier to embrace:

  1. When something new pops up in the Web, other sites swarm to analyze it. How can your firm harness this speed to market? The emergence of Twitter and the hundreds of tools to analyze Twitter data is just one example.
  2. Recently, Nielsen conducted a study that looked at successful new product launches across 30 large consumer packaged goods companies and found a correlation between successful, innovative product introductions and how differing levels of executive involvement affect launches. When senior leadership is involved at your firm, does it help or hinder the adoption of new ideas?
  3. When we visualize our organization, we often think of a map. What if the data that aided our decision-making was available as layers of information on a map, similar to how Google Maps layer satellite images with public transit, bike routes, and points of interest?

So, how does “layering” help us?

  1. By starting with tools and data that already exist in the market – data collection, organization and decision making is faster
  2. Focusing on a layer at a time creates is iterative and less complex to implement
  3. A visual representation of the decision-making-context makes solutions more recognizable and required less “context switching” for those using it

Faster + Iterative + Recognizable = Faster Decision Making

We spend too much time analyzing the mountains of data we have collected, assuming that it contains answers to our business questions. Why not start with the decisions we are trying to make and working our way backward with the help of the data? Does your business have a decision-making model?

If we start with decisions and then add the context for those decisions, we can support the business in a much more direct way. What area of your organization could benefit from a “layered” decision-making process?

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