The flow of information in our world is incredibly voluminous, continual, and as rapid as a class five river after a torrential rainstorm. This alone is enough to make many people avoid trying to interpret what it all means, or even worse they opt out of collecting data at all.
Thankfully, the real value is not in the data, but the result of what you manage to get with the data. Here’s the elephant in the room: data is not truth. But using it wisely should provide a strategy foundation that propels organizations to a common understanding for taking action.
So if you believe that common understandings are important, and we hope most do, moving information down a framework that is logical for everyone to recognize is key. By doing so, this also helps define what is true to your culture, what can be embraced within your organization, and what will serve you best to fulfill the greater need of your marketplace or community.
Here’s a nod to Chris Argyris, a business school professor who developed a framework for this purpose called the “Ladder of Inference” broken up into rungs that help users climb to clarity:
1st Rung — Facts and Reality: What are the real facts that I should be using?
2nd Rung — Selected Reality: What data have I chosen to use and why?
3rd Rung — Interpreted Reality: How are my thoughts adding meaning to this data?
4th Rung — Assumptions: What am I assuming and why? Are my assumptions valid?
5th Rung — Conclusions: Why did I draw this conclusion? Is it sound?
6th Rung — Beliefs: How does this conclusion apply in the environment around me?
7th Rung — Actions: Is this the right action or decision to make and why?
The “And why” is the golden rung on this ladder. It should be the apex of a solid, logical progression to trace back. It can be used to validate or challenge positions in a way that can minimize conflict.
Our ability to make sense of our world through information alone is foolhardy. We need to acknowledge that all information goes through some kind of filter. Paying attention to how strategic decisions are made is too important to do without a trail of accountable processing steps. Perhaps this ladder can help with not just moving forward with decisions but to a higher plane for connecting with those who see the world through various other filters.
Are you confident to explain “and why” to others when you track your decision-making process?