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The workplace ramifications of too much data

New data from a study of more than 14,000 employees and business leaders across 17 countries shows how the increasing battle with data is creating obstacles for career growth and stifling potential success for HR leaders

People feel overwhelmed and under qualified to use data to make decisions and this is hurting their quality of life and business performance, according to a new study*. The study of more than 14,000 employees and business leaders across 17 countries found that people are struggling to make decisions in their personal and professional lives at a time when they are being forced to make more decisions than ever before.

People in the UK (87%) are the most overwhelmed in Europe by the data deluge. The amount of information available is damaging trust, making decisions more complicated, and negatively impacting our quality of life at home and at work. UK business leaders are suffering the most in Europe (95%) from decision distress due to the overwhelming amount of data which prevents them from working effectively. Therefore, it may not be a surprise that UK leaders are the most confident (76%) in the continent when it comes to delegating decision-making tasks to robots.

The number of decisions we are making is multiplying and more data is not helping
Brits are overwhelmed by the amount of data and this is damaging trust, making decisions much more complicated, and negatively impacting their quality of life.

  • 83 percent of people in the UK (74 percent globally) say the number of decisions they make every day has increased 10x over the last three years and as they try to make these decisions, 87 percent (78 percent globally) are getting bombarded with more data from more sources than ever before.
  • 92 percent (86 percent globally) say the volume of data is making decisions in their personal and professional lives much more complicated and 61 percent (59 percent globally) admit they face a decision dilemma – not knowing what decision to make – more than once every single day.
  • 41 percent UK (35 percent globally) don’t know which data or sources to trust and 71 percent (70 percent globally) have given up on making a decision because the data was overwhelming.
  • 86 percent of people UK (85 percent globally) say this inability to make decisions is having a negative impact on their quality of life. It is causing spikes in anxiety (36 percent globally; 41 percent UK), missed opportunities (33 percent globally; 31 percent UK), and unnecessary spending (29 percent globally; 25 percent UK).
  • As a result, 94 percent of Brits (93 percent globally) have changed the way they make decisions over the last three years. 41 percent (39 percent globally) now only listen to sources they trust and 28 percent (29 percent globally) rely solely on gut feelings.

Decision distress is creating organizational inertia
UK business leaders want data to help and know it is critical to the success of their organizations,

but don’t believe they have the tools to be successful which is eroding their confidence and ability to make timely decisions.

  • 93 percent (85 percent globally) of UK business leaders have suffered from decision distress – regretting, feeling guilty about, or questioning a decision they made in the past year – and 99 percent (93 percent globally) believe having the right type of decision intelligence can make or break the success of an organization.
  • In the UK everyone – 100 percent  of people (97 percent globally) want help from data. In an ideal world, they want data to help them: make better decisions (44 percent globally; 45 percent UK), reduce risk (41 percent globally; 36 percent UK), make faster decisions (39 percent globally; 39 percent UK), make more money (36 percent globally; 37 percent UK), and plan for the unexpected (29 percent globally; 31 percent UK).
  • In reality, 80 percent of UK business leaders (73 percent globally) admit the sheer volume of data and their lack of trust in data has stopped them from making any decision at all and 94 percent (91 percent globally) believe the growing number of data sources has limited the success of their organizations.
  • Managing different data sources has required additional resources to collect all the data (42 percent globally; 46 percent UK), made strategic decision making slower (38 percent globally; 30 percent UK), and introduced more opportunities for error (28 percent globally; 32 percent UK).

Data needs to be relevant to the decisions people make or they will give up on it
Collecting and interpreting data has driven Brits to their breaking point at a time when the stakes are incredibly high for business leaders.

  • 78 percent of people in the UK (70 percent globally) say the headache of having to collect so much data and interpret it is too much for them to handle.
  • This is particularly evident in the business world. 84 percent of UK business leaders (78 percent globally) say people often make decisions and then look for the data to justify them, 80 percent of employees (74 percent globally) believe businesses often put the highest paid person’s opinion ahead of data, and 18 percent of all people (24 percent globally) feel that most decisions made in business are not rational.
  • The situation is so challenging that 65 percent of people (64 percent globally) – and 76 percent of business leaders (70 percent globally) – would prefer for all these difficulties to just go away and to have a robot make their decisions.
  • Despite their frustrations with data in their personal and professional worlds, people know that without data their decisions would be less accurate (44 percent globally; 46 percent UK), less successful (27 percent globally; 21 percent UK), and more prone to error (39 percent globally; 42 percent UK).
  • People also believe that an organization that uses technology to make data-driven decisions is more trustworthy (79 percent globally; 82 percent UK), will be more successful (79 percent globally; 81 percent UK), is a company they’re more likely to invest in (76 percent globally; 78 percent UK), partner with (77 percent globally; 79 percent UK), and work for (78 percent globally; 80 percent UK).

Supporting Quotes
“We have far too much data at our fingertips to make sense of all by ourselves”, said Siobhan Wilson, UK country leader at Oracle. This is leaving the whole workforce feeling overwhelmed, clouding our sense of judgement and causing hesitation over important decisions. In the UK, our leaders are the most likely in Europe to regret or question decisions made, and the least likely to take risks. As we navigate these rough economic seas, this needs to change. Businesses already see the value of data in decision making, they just need to rethink how to get a better hold on this and glean insights more effectively. This is where technology comes in – improving the accuracy and trustworthiness behind decision-making, while reducing the stress and anxiety surrounding this.”

“When our drivers are racing at more than 200 miles per hour, they have to make critical decisions very quickly. The correct race strategy decisions, like when to pit and which tyres are best for the conditions on the track, can mean the difference between winning and losing,” said Christian Horner, Team Principal and CEO at Oracle Red Bull Racing. “With Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, our team can take advantage of data by running billions of race strategy simulations during a Grand Prix weekend, ensuring that we make the best decisions in response to the performance of the cars, changes happening on the track, and the actions of our competitors during the race.”

“We’re wading through more data than at any time in history,” said Zena Everett, productivity leadership coach and author or The Crazy Busy Cure. “There’s so much that it wastes our time, stops us taking action and leaves us drained. What we need is to slow down and actually think about the question we need to answer and how much data we actually need to inspire action. We need to ask ourselves, when is enough, enough?”

“People are drowning in data,” said Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, data scientist and author of Everybody Lies and Don’t Trust Your Gut. “This study highlights how the overwhelming amount of inputs a person gets in their average day — internet searches, news alerts, unsolicited comments from friends — frequently add up to more information than the brain is configured to handle. People are tempted to throw out the confusing, and sometimes conflicting, data and just do what feels right. But this can be a big mistake. It has been proven over and over again that our instincts can lead us astray and the best decision-making is done with a proper understanding of the relevant data. Finding a way to get a handle on the stream of data at their fingertips, to help businesses distinguish between the signal and the noise, is a crucial first step.”

“As businesses expand to serve new customers in new ways, the number of data inputs they need to get the full picture expands too. Business leaders that make critical decisions about how to manage their companies ignore that data at their own risk,” said T.K. Anand, executive vice president, Oracle Analytics. “The hesitancy, distrust, and lack of understanding of data shown by this study indicates that many people and organizations need to rethink their approach to data and decision making. What people really need is to be able to connect data to insight to decision to action. With our span of connected cloud capabilities, ranging from foundational data management, to augmented and applied analytics, to our suite of operational applications, we are uniquely positioned to meet this need.”

“The number of decisions we make every day is multiplying as data volumes over the past decade have grown exponentially. Every enterprise needs to take a more strategic and disciplined approach to acquiring, growing, refining, safeguarding, and deploying data,” said Andrea Cesarini, managing director, Accenture Oracle Business Group, Europe lead. “Accenture can help organizations unlock the value of their data and make it accessible at scale by embracing the cloud and embedding intelligence into the digital core of the business.”

*Research: The Decision Dilemma – by Oracle and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, New York Times bestselling author

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