MAR 21, 2013 11:40am ET

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Can Expectations Alter Data Quality?


One of my favorite recently read books is “You Are Not So Smart” by David McRaney. Earlier this week, the book’s chapter about expectations was excerpted as an online article on “Why We Can’t Tell Good Wine From Bad,” which also provided additional examples about how we can be fooled by altering our expectations.

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Comments (2)
I'm not sure about this. It would be nice to think that we could "spin" things and promote a positive experience ("Hey! Why not come and try our new reports, they taste great!"). But I've found that the question isn't so much about expectations, as about visibility - people don't know what they can trust (because there's no lineage, no reconciliation, no traceability etc etc), so they end up with a default position of not trusting anything.

We had an illustrative case here at the University last week, where one of the Heads of School asked for a report on how many students were due to commence in first year. Two different reports gave two different answers (materially different numbers), but there was no narrative to explain where the numbers had come from, what calculations had been applied, what filters were used to constrain the query, etc.

It turned out when we did the forensic analysis that there were NINE different underlying issues that were contributing to the difference in reported numbers! No visibility = no credibility = no trust = no value.

Posted by Alan D | Wednesday, March 27 2013 at 10:18PM ET
Thanks for your comment, Alan.

I agree with you that trying to create an a priori (i.e., not dependent on experience) positive expectation about data is improbable, but I would say that you provided another excellent example of how a negative expectation about data was created.

In your case, I assume that the Head of School who requested data, and then received two conflicting reports, probably now has a negative expectation about student data managed by the University.

So now, you have the even more difficult task of altering an a posteriori (i.e., dependent on experience) negative expectation about data -- in other words, how are you going to convince that Head of School that they should expect a positive experience with data next time?

Best Regards,


Posted by Jim H | Friday, March 29 2013 at 8:36AM ET
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