Friday, August 30, 2013

Intelligence Versus Timeliness - How Much Information Is Required For Decisionmaking?

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Intelligence Versus Timeliness - How Much Information Is Required For Decisionmaking?

In making management decisions the issue of intelligence versus timeliness is a central one. Some leaders believe in acting rapidly based upon less data and more instinct, while others, being more conservative, will hesitate to take precipitous action until they have collected what they consider to be "adequate" intelligence. In the first case, the action might be either tragically wrong or right on target. In the case of the second leader, by the time he or she has gathered what he or she regards as "adequate intelligence," the time for taking the proper action might have passed.

Although the article is titled "Intelligence Versus Timeliness - How Much Information Is Needed For Decisionmaking?", the answer to the question "How much do we need to know before we act?" reflects more about a subjective personal command style than anything quantitative with a calculated solution. My thoughts follow:

Gathering and confirming the best intelligence requires time -- but for intelligence to be useful, it must be acted upon timely. Often, this balance requires the perceived importance of taking action with immediacy -- and in these cases, ironically, actions with vast consequences are often taken with less than adequate intelligence. The course of action chosen when time appears critical and action is taken based upon the equivalent of a coin toss will very often be more of a gamble than a calculated risk.

The trick is to utilize intelligence constantly and consistently so that a possible threat or potential opportunity can be predicted significantly in advance, and a probability assigned to it [as well as an actionable timeline], and the appropriate move taken at the optimal time. Intelligence should be used first and foremost for its prediction power, instead of as a problem-solving tool to be used for damage control. As I have stressed repeatedly (although in different words)in The Global Futurist Blog, "Use your prognostication tools to predict the time and likelihood of an asteroid's intrusion into Earth's atmosphere so that you will have the necessary time to gather further intelligence about how to either change the projectile's trajectory, or to blow it up before it actually makes entry into the atmosphere."

Apply intelligence 1) predictively, and also 2) technically, i.e., for damage control as well as for the harvesting of rare and valuable opportunities.

- Douglas E. Castle

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