Discussion: in god we trust, all others bring data

W.E. Deming, the father of modern statistical quality control, is generally considered to be the originator of the saying “In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data.” While most of the people who cite Deming in this instance use the quote to focus on the need for data-driven decisions, and that was clearly one of the messages Deming wished to communicate, the quote also contains a powerful statement about God’s omniscience and trustworthiness. Implied in Deming’s statement is that the data others must bring should share to some degree in these same qualities of God; in other words, it must be valid and it must be reliable.

The requirement for others to bring data is rooted in two sources: humanity’s limited knowledge and questionable integrity.  People seldom know as much as they think they do; and what they know is often incorrect or has been improperly interpreted.  And clearly, there are many gaps in our understanding of the causes or solutions of problems that we face. Data can help verify what is known and potentially discover new knowledge. Good data analysis can bring clarity to problems, point the way to potential solutions, and provide compelling proof for ideas or arguments. It can also speak to the truthfulness or falsehood of those it describes.

Truthfulness and integrity are at the heart of good data analysis. Data that is misrepresented, or even manufactured to support a particular point of view is not good data. As researchers focused on solving problems, your commitment to accurately gathering and reporting data is key to effective problem-solving. Just as integrity is a key characteristic of the Virtuous Leader and Virtuous Organization, so too must integrity be at the heart of good research. At times, our research will lead us in directions that we would rather not pursue. Sometimes it may indicate that the solution may not be affordable or acceptable to all of the stakeholders. In these times, all a good researcher can do if to maintain a commitment to integrity and accurately reporting what the data indicates.

The Virtuous Business Model argues that integrity and competence are earmarks of virtuous leaders. Make sure your data demonstrates your integrity and competency as you begin your journey into research and problem-solving.

Upon successful completion of this discussion, you will be able to:

  • Critique the relationship between integrity as described in the VBM and good decision making.

Instructions:

  1. Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
  2. Prepare a discussion post that answers the following questions:
    1. Describe a decision you have made in the past that you later understood was influenced by bad data. If you cannot recall such a decision, then look for an example of a public official who has done so.
    2. What was the result of the decision informed by bad data?
    3. What were the reasons bad data was used to make the decision?
    4. How might good data have been obtained to make a better data-driven decision?
  3. Your initial post should be 200 – 300 words long and is due by the fourth day of the workshop.
  4. Respond in writing to two of your classmates.
  5. Each written response should be 100 – 200 words in length and demonstrate a critical analysis of your classmate’s post.
  6. These responses are due by the end of the workshop.
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