danish is a dubai-raised artist, speaker, DESIGNER, sailor, father, investor & ENTREPRENEUR. he heads hybrid advisory firm xische & Co.

Over-Analysis and the Art of Complication

When was the last time you reviewed a report? One that was about to change things for your company? A series of beautifully crafted infographics with an unending series of 'findings' that range from Excel-ed numerics to complicated aggregate metrics? One where you're trying desperately to figure out what the big picture really is?

I'm guessing you've seen one recently.

Companies like Nielson and Information Resources (IRI) spawned the explosion of analysing 'analysis' in the early 80's. With the internet and more recently, social media, analysis has become the backbone of how business works. This in itself is a stellar concept. Continuing to serve clients without understanding what every nuance really means is like running a business in complete isolation, allowing only one's ego in. Focus groups solved that problem very early on. Today social media metrics tally up results -- unfocus groups I call them. But what do you do with the results? You analyse them, ofcourse.  The results hold a promise of discovering the problems, and ideally unraveling the formulae for their resolution.

This process is ofcourse logically sound. But with the ever-increasing need to course-correct business decisions with agility, decision makers have started to rely almost wholly on 'analytics,' without necessarily leading off into the hard stuff -- the decisions. Simple, binary decisions that go either the yay or nay route, eventually.

Therein lies the problem of politically-correct, over-complicated, misplaced priorities.

An anecdote I found in the Harvard Business Review demonstrates the dilemma craftily. The blog cites one of the writers devising a cheap and chirpy method to manage his home finances. His wife, a meticulous accountant, would literally email analyses evaluating their income and expenditure at the end of every month. Hassled by having to trod along this exercise to figure out whether there were problems, he suggested she mark the email with either a smily face if things looked good or a sad face to indicate there were problems. It worked wonders.

If you think about it, his wife had always been empowered to evaluate their situation, but submitting analytics for another's perusal does exactly the opposite -- it takes that power away. The reader of the report must now invest time and effort to judge it. I ask: why this repetition of judgement calls? Do we really have as much collective time to spare?

Analysis will always remain key in the decision-making process. However, making sense of it has become another story. The analysis itself has somehow become the end-game. In the (very near) future, I foresee business executives seeking out a new breed of Simplification Consultants, whose sole purpose will be to interpret analysis and simplify results. Ideally, 3 slides with no more than 2 phrases each to tell it like it is. Let the numbers and figures remain meticulously annexed, and accessible should there be the need for citation.

These consultants will carry the credentials to evaluate data using measurement metrics their client needs in place. They however, unlike the analysts, will focus on the big picture ideas. The bottom lines. How, you might ask? By virtue of being multi-disciplinary in expertise -- a concept I have written about in my piece The Extinction of Specialisation.

This would mean simplifying the 'complications' with guiding principles to keep overall corporate objectives in check, while relying signifantly on collaborative instinct. Yes, collaboration. Isolated audits will no longer remain in vogue -- a concept explained in fellow commentator Mishaal Al Gergawi's article World Collaboration Manifesto.  A network of consultants will contribute objectively on portions of analytical data by means of an 'instinct-vote.' Eventually, this collaborative effort, possible with the socially-connected technology already available today, will lead to s-i-m-p-l-e blueprints for decisions. Efficiency would certainly increase as a result, shrinking timeframes required to make well-informed decisions.

Until that happens, I think productivity levels of executives empowered to 'analyse the analysis' will continue to decline. The emphasis on actual analytical figures will far outweigh any real decisions. The quality of decisive growth will continue to dwindle. The clarity of thought, reason, and eventually, ideas will become myths. Times when we ran business with simple instinctive decisions will seem like the 'good ol'days' from another century.

Recommended reading: World Colloboration Manifesto by fellow-thinker Mishaal Al Gergawi and my previous article Extinction of Specialisation.

Dubai 2000-2020: A Utopian Future in the Present

The Extinction of Specialisation