Work Traits

Evidence Based Decision Making

Evidence based decision making is great for coaching, science, research, quality control, and any position that requires you to find patterns and trends.
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What is evidence based decision making?

Evidence based decision making means you aren’t automatically convinced, and sometimes even data or facts aren’t enough to sway your decision-making process. Instead, you require repetitive examples and evidence.

For example, you might need to see a potential new feature demonstrated several times before you decide whether or not it will work. Or a colleague might need to showcase their knowledge over and over again before you feel like they’re competent.

You want to see things in action a certain number of times (which varies from person to person) before you can offer your trust or make a decision.

We call it: Examples

Level of importance for you to have multiple examples or exposures to something in order to be convinced about it.

I believe in evidence-based decision making. I want to know what the facts are.

Hillary Clinton

Leaders who have evidence-based decision making

Gregor Mendel

Gregor Mendel

It makes sense that scientists would emphasize evidence-based decision making, and Gregor Mendel is no exception. Lauded as the father of modern genetics, he established an understanding of how a generation could inherit genes from a previous generation.

He landed on using pea plants for his research, which he studied for eight years. He carefully examined each generation of pea plant to look for the inheritance of specific genes.

Like any good scientist, he didn’t accept one occurrence as fact. He bred 22 different varieties of pea plants over that time period to draw conclusions that were backed by numerous examples.

Herb Brooks

Hockey coach, Herb Brooks, is one of the most celebrated coaches of all time. He brought the U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory against the Soviet team in 1980.

One of the many keys to the team’s success was thorough conditioning, as Brooks made them run the same drills over and over again before he could be convinced they had refined their skills and could work together as a team.

That’s why one of the most famous lines from the movie based on the U.S. Olympic hockey team is, “Again, again, again...” as Brooks (portrayed by Kurt Russell) made them work out and do repetitive sprints immediately after a game.

Herb Brooks
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Jonas Salk

Little requires more repetitive evidence than testing vaccines. They must be proven to be effective and, more importantly, safe before they can be released to the wider public.

That’s true now, and it was true for Jonas Salk, who developed the vaccine for polio.

In fact, Salk believed so strongly in procuring evidence and examples that the vaccine was effective that he injected himself, his wife, children, and his lab scientist with the vaccine—all of whom experienced zero negative reactions.

The benefits of evidence-based decision making

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Because you require repetitive examples and numerous exposures to something, you’re able to spot patterns and trends where others wouldn’t see them.

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Repeated proof and evidence gives you a high degree of confidence in your decisions and conclusions.

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People who believe in evidence-based decision making are great fits for quality control positions, as numerous exposures to examples means they ensure consistency and cohesion.

The blind spots of evidence-based decision making

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Slow decisions

Requiring repetitive evidence makes for a lengthy decision-making process, which can limit your ability to make speedy choices.

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You often require that people prove themselves over and over again before you trust them or view them as competent, which can be frustrating for your team members.

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Sometimes there isn’t an opportunity to collect repetitive examples, such as when you need to decide on a job applicant following one interview. You can find it challenging to act on your intuition, and you might be indecisive as a result.

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How to use evidence-based decision making

1) Test your own theories.

Relying on evidence and examples starts with you. When you have a theory or an idea for a new project, test it yourself several times first. 

For example, if you have a hunch that you can streamline your team’s workflow, give your suggestion a trial run on some of your personal tasks first. Do that trial several times. By the time you pitch it to your team, you’ll have added confidence that it’s effective.

2) Slow down.

If you’re used to making quick decisions or snap judgements, evidence-based decision making is going to be a bit of a mental shift for you.

Take a breath and slow down. Rather than rushing to draw a conclusion or make a choice, give yourself some time to think through all aspects and collect examples if necessary. Remember, evidence-based decision making doesn’t lend itself to speedy decisions.

3) Ask for examples.

Similarly, get in the habit of asking for examples and evidence when they aren’t provided. If a team member suggests something, have them draw it out, demonstrate it, or walk you through it step by step.

There’s no set number of times you need to be shown something to be convinced, as this varies from person to person. But, even just one example is better than none when you’re trying to be an evidence-based decision maker.

4) Do things more than once.

You’ve been there before: Your team wants to launch a new feature or change up a piece of their process. So, maybe you give their idea one quick test run and then off you go.

Rather than accepting a single test as good enough, challenge yourself to run a test a few different times—in different circumstances or using different variables. That’s a far more thorough evaluation and also gets you more comfortable with operatingk with true evidence.

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