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Decision Quality by Jennifer Meyer, Hannah Winter, Carl Spetzler

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6Relevant and Reliable Information

Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.

—William Pollard

We are continually bombarded with information—through the Internet, printed documents, and streams of emails, texts, and phone calls. Information commands our attention throughout the day. Just accessing all of this information can be overwhelming. Big Data adds to the barrage of information, with promises of new insights, but ever-increasing complexity in the information space.

Information from a Decision Perspective

Determining which information matters and which does not is a constant challenge. In decision making, information connects what we can do (alternatives) with what we want (values); it helps us predict the outcomes of each alternative in terms of our values. And because the future is uncertain, we need to describe the future with possibilities—what could happen—and probabilities—our beliefs about their likelihood. For example, when we flip a balanced coin, there are two possibilities for the flip's outcome (heads or tails), and each has a probability of 50%. There really is no other way to make sense of information when dealing with future outcomes. We could create a few scenarios about what might happen in the future, and add a lot of color to make them very memorable—but those scenarios need to be converted into a full set of possibilities, ...

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