Providing Decision-Ready Information: Getting to ‘Why’

Conventional wisdom holds that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The line between raw data and decision-ready information, on the other hand, is neither straight nor short—it leads through a series of questions, the most important beginning with “Why”—but librarians who fail to follow it risk allowing their organization’s leaders to miss opportunities or make decisions based on incorrect interpretations.


That’s the main message of the theme articles in the May-June issue of Information Outlook. In “Three Steps to Better Insights for Innovation,” Peter Mulford of BTS says decision makers and the librarians and information professionals who support them should ask questions that “discover the deeper ‘why beneath the why’ that describes the data in question.” He suggests a three-step approach:

  1. Start with the “three W’s” to frame the human problem you are trying to solve;
  2. Use ALOE (asking, listening, observing, and empathizing) tools to uncover the “why”; and
  3. Change the angle of inquiry to eliminate biases.

Kate Vilches and Cory Hutchinson of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, in “Tailoring Information to Specific Objectives,” also encourage asking questions. “We find that knowing the end result or product that our research supports can help us better meet our customers’ needs,” they write. “When we neglect to ask the ‘why’ question, we risk providing information that is not grounded in the proper context.”

The value of decision-ready information is documented in The Evolving Value of Information Management, a report developed by SLA in conjunction with the Financial Times. The report, based on surveys, interviews, and research, found that information users and especially executives suffer from a lack of information that is tailored, targeted, and delivered quickly enough for them to make use of it.

“Executives have to spend valuable time trying to get the cup [of information] they need from the flood provided,” the report states. “Information providers need to understand that a big part of the value they provide is in turning the deluge of data into succinct, high-quality, current, on-message information.”

To learn more, read the May-June issue.

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