In a January 2006 article for the Harvard Business Review titled “Decisions Without Blinders,” authors Max Bozerman and Dolly Chugh bring out an interesting point.

While the majority of their article focuses on the concept of “bounded awareness- when cognitive blinders prevent a person from seeing, seeking, using, or sharing highly relevant, easily accessible, and readily perceivable information during the decision-making process,” they do bring out another interesting facet of the science of decision making that many might not have considered.

They write that “Even when spared a deluge of information and given sufficient time to make decisions, most individuals still fail to bring the right information into their conscious awareness at the right time.”

Poor Decisions

Let’s just focus on that last sentence we pointed out above, because it is by far the most distressing- essentially, even if you have a sophisticated information delivery system that spares you from information overload one can still suffer from bounded awareness. Bozerman and Chugh even point out that more time does not necessarily lead to better decisions. And that’s something that should be pretty frightening to us all: poor decisions due to bounded awareness can still be made with all of the facts present and all of the time we need.

Luckily the authors go through some of the more likely reasons that bounded awareness occurs, and they break it down into three categories: failure to seek, use, and share information.

While all three of those points are definitely valid, one of them in particular caught our attention: how does one fail to use information if, in fact, it is right in front of them?

Using Information to Make Decisions

Believe it or not, the answer is more understandable than you might think, and according to the authors it stems from a simple misunderstanding of the term useful. Many executives will see sheets of pertinent data to their business but simply lack the mental bandwidth to pay equal attention to each report or KPI. Therefore they make a mental note of which information is useful and which is extraneous fluff.

However, those unconscious choices to ignore certain facts can make a huge difference when it comes to effective decision-making. The authors have numerous suggestions on how to decide what is important and what isn’t. For example, they recommend asking yourself “what information do we already know in our organization? What information is relevant to the problem at hand? Is it rational to ignore the information that we have not been using?”

However, for the already busy executive, it would appear that taking the time to ask those questions before making a decision would be an exhausting and time-consuming exercise in itself.

A Better Way

At VisualCue, we have another way to determine what information is useful and what isn’t. Sure, you could go to industry benchmarks and use those to determine which KPIs you should be focusing on, but using that method you still run the risk of missing an important piece of the puzzle.

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Instead, why not bring in multiple KPIs all relating to whatever person, process or physical asset you are measuring and display them all on one screen.

Initially this might sound like information overload- too much data on one screen and not enough time to sift through it all and find just the information you need to make the best decision possible. But that’s where VisualCue’s iconic, pictorial interface and dynamic, colorful thresholds as context clues come in to play. By translating data into pictures VisualCue is able to harness your natural ability for pattern recognition and make enormous data sets easy to immediately consume.

That’s how the right data visualization can help anyone, regardless of training, avoid bounded awareness and make sure that they are using the information to make better decisions: present all the facts in a way that all KPIs, with context clues, are right in front of you. You can’t help but make better, faster decisions.

Until next time,

The VisualCrew