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Dave Wells’ prescription for the incurious

Former TDWI education director Dave Wells keeps running into users whose BI reports might as well be printed. These users simply accept the data as presented and don’t ask questions. That’s nothing new, of course. The difference is that Dave has a way to deal with it.

I caught part of his session today at TDWI World Conference in Chicago: “Understanding Cause and Effect: An Introduction to Systems Thinking.”

For the incurious, Dave prescribes causal-loop diagrams. When he starts drawing, and people can visualize a complex system — especially when they work inside it — they quickly get involved with the analysis. Once involved, they can’t avoid asking questions.

Take the case of the healthcare insurer, for example. His simple lines and arrows demonstrate how badly thought out incentives for data entry clerks actually increases the rate of bad data entering the system.

Available systems-diagramming tools, however, just aren’t good enough yet to do all he needs to do, he says. He showed one, MapSys, that comes closest.

He’s going to go looking. Over the next six to nine months, he’s going to be “that pain-in-the-ass guy from BI” attending every systems-thinking conference he can.

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