So exactly how and if senior leaders draw on big data factors in their decision-making is largely unexplained.
Researchers studied top-level decisions by board managers at 19 organisations in manufacturing, finance, consultancy, IT and air travel.
“Our study identified a shortfall in capabilities for dealing with the challenges of big data,” said Dr Ana Canhoto at Brunel Business School. “There is a gap in the knowledge and understanding organisations need, in order to avoid the cognitive biases and overloads big data can bring.”
The study, published in the Journal of Business Research, looked at how board managers think and act and the mental models and skills they use to weigh up big data.
Directors, it shows, recognise big data’s potential to improve their decision-making. But many admit feeling ill-equipped to do this, whether through their own technical skills or the new type of non-linear thinking needed.
The directors often found themselves reverting to old ways of thinking about their organisations or about how to use the information. This is hampered by sub-workers’ habit of only providing directors with simplified, ‘top level’ round-ups.