Feb 2, 2024

More Data = More Problems

Remember the famous children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”, published in 1985 by Laura Numeroff?  The wonderful thesis of that book was simple: mice have an insatiable appetite for more of whatever you choose to give them.  A simple sequence of events triggered by the simple act of giving a mouse a cookie leads to a series of increasingly absurd requests and activities. Through these cascading events, the book demonstrates how one action can lead to another and how small actions can have unexpected consequences.

Schools and colleges have their own version of this book.  I have found that the same issue happens when giving the wrong members of educational communities data and information that exceeds their leadership capabilities and is above their role. Here are some examples of this in action.

  • Some schools give a board members or parent leaders serving on a design team in a strategic planning process more data to analyze and mine as they generate strategic priorities.
  • Or, providing a board member or faculty leader serving on a search committee for the college president more data to assess the situation.

The simple act of providing more data to these stakeholders, it triggers the opposite response: they want more data.  And, more data and more analysis often lead to “paralysis by analysis”, meaning that these stakeholders spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing and little to no time formulating creative responses.

Here is the reality.  They want more data to quench an unquenchable appetite called personal interest.  They are often not using the data to solve strategic issues, but, instead, are caught in the vicious cycle of wanting more data to satisfy their own curiosity. And, it can spiral out of control, where you have the wrong people (not the senior leadership team) using data for the wrong reasons.

Save yourself the hassle. Here are three critical steps to ensure you that you don’t end up like the book.

  1. Never supply data, raw data, or unorganized data to the wrong stakeholders.
  2. Provide only data that has been thoroughly analyzed and is organized with key findings or an executive summary.
  3. Have the courage to decline providing more data when the request inevitably comes for more data.

Now, while we are talking about cookies…

Leave a Comment