Data-Driven Decisions Are Full of Emotion

“Just the facts, ma’am.” Businesses are craving all the information they can get to make better decisions. HR is still trying to figure out how they can harness all of the data to try to appease the C-suite and temper their own inferiority complex. Everyone is trying to get more and more data to get to a rational “business decision.” In reality, we are trying to find the data that fits our story or makes us feel better about a tough decision.

Picture the 2 dudes in their navy suits, cuff links, and tan Allen Edmonds wing-tips. The conversation goes something like this:

Bro #1- “Hey, man, all my decisions are business, not personal.”

Bro #2- “No, baby, all business is personal.”

Despite all of the motivational meme and swiss cheese, tough guy speak, Bro #2 is correct. And they both have good taste in shoes.

All decisions are charged with emotion. We request more data to help us tell a story when things are difficult. We think that having an extra set of numbers or a beautiful data viz display will make our difficult decisions easy. That by having a strong data set or a valid piece of research, it will mask the pain and emotion that comes with making some tough business calls. But numbers are just numbers. It’s the story we weave with those numbers that make us feel better.

Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Is that how it goes? We see this in our everyday lives. Both sides of the political aisle have their spin on data to make it appease their interests and constituents. Researchers will release a solid study based on their interviews, experiments, and validation. We disagree with said research because it just doesn’t feel right to us, so we Google to find the research that either debunks or fits into our story because it makes us feel better.

The C-suite is filled with people who crave the numbers and the data. They build a reputation of a this ironclad exterior. Employees scramble, fret, and freak out while building presentations for this group to provide every bit of data and strip out any type of feelings because they fear the wrath. But I tend to believe that beneath that closed off exterior, there is a person filled with all of the emotions and anxieties that go with making tough decisions, especially when they involve people.

Not too many executives would ever admit these things publicly, but I’ll bet them a fine bottle of 25-year-old single malt scotch that there are real, raw emotions and feelings behind the data. And “Corporate America” would be better served to see a little more of that vulnerability.


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