Computer scientists coined the colorful expression “garbage in, garbage out” in the earliest days of data processing, a term first recorded in an article in 1963 when an AP reporter visited an early computer lab.
Nearly 60 years later, we’re still struggling with data credibility.
A study last year from HFS Research found that 75% of execs don’t have a high level of trust in their data. And a Gartner study from a few years ago reported that 40% of enterprise data is either inaccurate, incomplete, or unavailable.
This, as data volumes continue to explode and AI applications increase. IDC estimates that the amount of data created in the next three years will eclipse the amount created in the previous thirty.
A 2012 comment from statistician Nate Silver in NPR still holds:
“We’re not that much smarter than we used to be, even though we have much more information — and that means the real skill now is learning how to pick out the useful information from all this noise.”
I think this is an important reminder in enterprise decision-making, as we all try to get savvier over time with how we work with the data we have access to. We have to learn how to be data-driven without being data-blinded, neither accepting information wholesale nor rejecting it outright.
Netscape founding CEO Jim Barksdale famously gave one of my favorite quotes about data-driven decision making:
“If we have data, let’s look at the data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: