How I make better decisions by using data.

In order to make better decisions, it is essential to overcome the fear of data and embrace the power of information. This valuable lesson has proven its worth time and again, emphasizing the significance of data over emotions.

During my tenure as the owner of a mortgage bank equipped with a dedicated processing department, a scenario unfolded that perfectly illustrated this principle. Our diligent processors were entrusted with the task of reviewing and verifying the accuracy and completeness of the voluminous loan packages submitted by Loan Officers. They meticulously entered the information into the software and prepared it for submission to obtain necessary approvals.

On a particular day, a group of Loan Officers stormed into my office, visibly frustrated and discontented due to their loans not being processed by the usually esteemed "Ms. H." Their demand was unequivocal: they insisted on her immediate termination, holding her responsible for the adverse financial consequences inflicted upon both the Loan Officers and the company as a whole. Their conviction was unwavering, and they cited specific instances to bolster their complaints, which were further echoed by some of our top-performing Loan Officers.

The perception seemed to suggest that Ms. H was falling behind in her work pace. Despite once being regarded as "awesome" and "the best," she now faced the prospect of being dismissed from her position.

To gain a clearer understanding of the situation, I promptly approached our operations department and requested a report detailing the average number of loans processed by each individual processor over the course of the previous month. Here is the comprehensive chart showcasing the findings:

The crucial realization here is that Ms. H's exceptional efficiency and track record made her a prime target for Loan Officers who sought swift processing of their loans. They inundated her with an overwhelming number of loans, fully aware of her ability to handle them quickly, rather than utilizing their assigned processors. Ms. H, despite being bombarded with this excessive workload, chose to remain silent.

Had I not proactively sought the supporting data, I would have solely relied on the emotions expressed by the Loan Officers and, subsequently, my own emotional response, perceiving it as a problem that needed immediate resolution. However, the availability of concrete information renders opinions futile in the presence of data.

It is crucial to embrace the value of data and learn to rely on it. Data should be viewed as a friend rather than a foe. As humans, we are inherently driven by emotions, often utilizing them to shape desired outcomes. We observe how children cry for attention, leading parents to console them, or how individuals yield to angry outbursts. Similarly, contagious laughter can spread among people, even when they may not fully comprehend what is amusing.

However, when faced with data that contradicts our expectations or preconceived notions, we may experience lapses in reasoning. For instance, imagine depositing $100 into your savings account, only to find a balance of $0 a week later. Experiencing the expectation of seeing $100 and the reality of $0 creates cognitive dissonance. You may find it difficult to accept the truth and still hold onto the vision of having $100, despite the clear information indicating otherwise. Acknowledging and working with the reality of $0 is a good decision. Embracing that reality allows for better decision-making, whether it involves recovering the lost funds or understanding where the $100 went. Succumbing to emotions only delays progress and leads to a path of imagination rather than practicality.