Lots of instinct, little data

Despite all the data that is now available to guide decision-making, most Canadian executives still rely on instinct and intuition, a new study finds.

You might think that when they make big decisions, Canadian business executives would be cool, rational and data driven. In reality, they are instinctive and intuitive, finds the PwC Global Data & Analytics Survey 2014: Big Decisions.

Globally, 58% of executives claim to depend on gut feeling and experience, but that proportion jumps to an astonishing 73% in Canada. "Domestically, barely a quarter of executives relied on data analytics to make big decisions in the past."

According to another report, Gut & Gigabytes: Capitalizing on the Art and Science in Decision Making, which was produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by PwC, "executives are three times more likely to report significant improvements in their decision making around innovation, growth and competitive advantage." Furthermore, many decision makers now have access to very rich sets of data and information before deciding in what direction to lead their company.

However, a large proportion of executives have an experience of "once bitten, twice shy." In Canada, 63%, compared with 45% globally, say that relying on data has been detrimental to their organization in the past.

Big data carries major obstacles. One is data overload: 43% of Canadian respondents (35% globally) consider that the quality, accuracy and completeness of their data constitute the biggest hurdle in using it. Another problem is timeliness: a strong majority of Canadian executives (70% compared with 46% globally) were disappointed with the timeliness of the data they received.

Finally, there is incomprehensibility: at the CEO level, a whopping 90% of Canadian respondents (52% globally) claim they have discounted data in the past that they didn't understand.