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Why Fact Finding is the Key to Building Effective Strategies

In an earlier life I was a market researcher. As is the case with many people I had drifted into the profession. I loved it because it brought together analysis and strategy. People paid me to do research which thoroughly engaged me. I loved the process of digging out information to arrive at an answer.

The search for information is critical in the use of frameworks. Frameworks are tools for determining future actions and these must be based on facts. It isn't quite as simple as this because one person looking at a collection of facts might come up with a solution quite different to somebody else with the same facts. It isn't the straightforward addition of facts that point us forward, it is the way those facts work together that matters.

During the Second World War the BBC had a monitoring division at Caversham Park. It was staffed by researchers who listened to broadcasts that were being made all over the world. Joseph Goebbels became convinced that his department had been infiltrated when he learned of the intelligence that was coming out of Caversham Park. In fact, the researchers were simply putting together and interpreting what they had learned by thorough and regular eavesdropping on the airwaves.

In my early days as a market researcher I was richly rewarded as an adviser to public companies who were targeting acquisitions. My clients seem to think that I had an inside track on what was going on at these acquisitions. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Any insights I had came from painstaking research at public libraries, interviewing customers and suppliers. Like the Caversham Park researchers, it was the figuring out how the bits of the jigsaw fitted together that made my work look special.

It won't be long before this skill in data collection and interpretation is contracted out to AI (artificial intelligence). Bots can scrape intelligence from the internet much quicker and more thoroughly than I did in public libraries and in interviews with customers and suppliers. However, we humans have an edge on the bots in the interpretation of what it all means. We are often desperate to get going with a framework but the more time we spend on fact-finding, the easier it will be to arrive at a solution. Until bots takeover, assume that the ratio of time taken to collect facts over time taken to work them into a strategy will be 10 to 1.

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