Suffocating in Data

Metric myopia and benchmark blindness may unconsciously result in not only an explosion of data, but becoming so suffocated by the volume that one fails to translate it fully into information, then into knowledge, and ultimately into the wisdom which true adaptive capacity requires. Zolli and Healy applaud the wide use of data, believing that resilience benefits accrue to organizations that prioritize the collection, collation, presentation, and sharing of data (emphasis added).1 Data transparency and sharing are key to renewal and transformation—aka, resilience—of systems. In a recent email correspondence on which I was copied, a nearly 70 year old Midwestern farmer board member of a grassroots membership organization conveyed this mindset shift to unlock and share data. He eloquently observes,

“I can hold on to [my data (experience)] and control access and it will become worthless as change accelerates, or I can open it up and have faith new paths will lead to new adventures (value). I am getting old and I believe that the best way to transform is to give up the control over past data and let others use it to answer their questions and [then] use those questions and my experience (data) to transform. Our members think their data is the source of value. I think my experience is the source of value….[W]hen we give up control and allow others to learn from our data, transformation accelerates. We can only capture the value of that transformation by being involved, and our window of value there is closing. Data waits for no one on its way to the grave.”2


1 Zolli and Healy, Resilience, 4487-88.
2 Doug Harford, email message from author March 22, 2013. Used with permission.

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