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Mariner Management & Marketing LLC

20% Likelihood of Fatal Crash: Acceptable Risk?

Saturday, May 3, 2014 - 2:27pm


Elizabeth Engel and I published a research paper last week about evidence-based decision-making (see The paper offers a variety of insights regarding the role of data, value of new analytical tools, the importance of intuition in the decision-making process, etc.

Whenever I finish a project like this, however, I invariably come away with a multitude of second thoughts and questions. Two stand out at the moment:

  1. What does it really mean to “practice” decision-making? Is this, in fact, a technical skill like hitting a serve in tennis that can be improved with a variety of mental exercises? Can technology help us build our decision-making muscles and technique?
  2. How do we find the “sweet spot” between acceptable risk and certainty? How much failure can we tolerate? (For those of you who saw the film “Rush”, you may recall that one of the drivers would not race if he believed the likelihood of a fatal crash exceeded 20%!) Are there valid scenario-building tools that will help us accurately calculate the level of risk associated with specific strategies?

Of course, it would seem good decision-making should always start with asking the right question. The most common false positive I hear in the association world arises from the question, “How do we get more members?” Should the better question be “How do we get the right members?” The right answer to the former may have little to do with the right answer to the latter.

I don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer to any of these questions, but I suspect that we associations still underutilize both the data we have on hand as well as the freely available large external data sets which can be overlaid on our internal data to give us a more complete picture of our members and their world. I would also suggest this represents a clear opportunity for the association tech community to increase its strategic utility and presence in the C-suite by introducing and activating the growing number of new tech tools that allow us to more effectively collect, curate, mine, analyze and share data.

Data for all and all for data!


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