Asking the right questions. Seeking the relevant information.

jackLet us play a card guessing game. I have a standard pack of 52 cards. I pick one at random and ask you for the chances it is a Jack. That is not that difficult. It is 1/13.

But it is not any standard pack of cards. We do not know how many cards in it. In fact we do not even know if there are any Jacks in it. It is like those card dispenser contraptions that spit out a card, except of unknown size. An acceptable answer is, “I don’t know”, because the problem is not frequentist probability question. The problem space has switched from risk to uncertainty.

But we can’t end it there. What if we need to find out to help with a business decision? After all, our output as a leader is decision making- make that informed decision making under uncertainty. So we have to push forward. What if we can reduce the uncertainty by asking questions? What if I made available volumes of varied data (BigData) about the card?

Sidebar,  if you ever followed Jonah Lehrer, renowned Bob Dylan scholar who also wrote books on creativity, or you are one of the hustling valley entrepreneur type you might answer  the question by,

“Questions? I won’t ask questions. I will force your hand and turn the card over to see”.

But let us stay realistic here and continue. What questions would you ask? What relevant data would you seek in the BigData?

You could ask: What color is the card?
But is that relevant and help to reduce uncertainty?

BigData could say: In 200,000 card pickings there were 103,568 red and rest black cards
Is that BigData relevant?

You could ask: Is that a picture card?
This  helps to reduce uncertainty. If the answer is no, you are done. If the answer is yes you still have work to do, but are at a better state than before.

BigData could say: In the past 200,000 card pickings a few picture cards were sighted.
This helps too but not as effective as you actively seeking the information.

The role of information is to reduce uncertainty. If it does not help reduce uncertainty in decision making it is useless regardless of its volume and variety (or how many ever Vs you add).  BigData is not a substitution for application of mind. You the decision maker need to ask the right questions for the decision at hand and not let it spew you with interesting findings.

Do you ask the right questions?

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