The data is not enough 

Flying is safe, chowing down on a fatty meal is not.

I know these things objectively, the data about air crash fatalities, heart attacks and strokes is well understood. Although I’ve been told each of these things my entire life, I regret not making a will and kissing my kids one more time whenever I get on a propeller plane, and I immensely enjoy the food my doctor would hit me around the head for eating.

The point is, data doesn’t give the entire picture and using data alone is counterproductive and, indeed, sometimes dangerous.

Expecting someone to make a dispassionate decision on the basis of the data, that they shouldn’t be scared while flying, ignores a person’s behaviour and feelings and attempts to combat a problem in an entirely ineffective way.

While data is an organisation’s single most valuable asset, the appropriate use of that data and the process is more important.

Take for instance a complaint about parking in a community. The data tells us that the level of parking supply is more than sufficient. The data also tells us that there are a large number of people circling the block searching for a park.

To take the data as it stands you may ignore the problem saying that the community’s desire to get a prime car parking spot is the problem and there’s nothing which can be done to change the perception of low parking availability.

Taking a more nuanced view and using the data to better understand the human behaviour around parking will give a richer view.

Using data to get a view of peak demand times, length of stay and car parks most used is much more useful and allows decision makers to embrace behaviour rather than work against it.

As a result, a decision may be made to introduce parking limits during peak periods in popular parking spaces, or extending the parking period for underutilised parks. That data may also be of assistance in determining maximum density levels as part of town planning.

This is only one example of why a holistic approach is required.

Other councils have problems with waste disposal, insufficient water, barking dogs, illegal dumping of rubbish, late payment of rates and many other issues which may also be assisted by this approach.

The data which may inform these insights is largely within the reach of all councils, regardless of size.

The question is, what problems can this approach solve for your council?

Dan Wood
Consulting Manager

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