CH 4: The Soft Underbelly of Hard Data By Henry Mintzberg

Mintzberg begs marketers and managers to consider the value of soft data over the many times favored hard data. Hard data is documented, qualified and structured. Soft data can be seen as vague, unstructured and subject to the options of others. Mintzberg outlines the problems with hard information and promotes soft information in the following points:

1. Hard information is often limited in scope, lacking richness.

–          Soft information on the other hand offers a personal system of information from the customer himself. For example, a single disgruntled customer can sometimes be worth more than a big marketing research report—in understanding customer needs.

2. Much hard information is too aggregated to be of effective use in strategy making.

–          Many things are lost in the process of gather hard data – often the essence of the information. Perhaps studying the conditions, terrain, environment, etc. would help to reveal more information in a clear and concise direction.

3. Much hard information arrives too late to be use in strategy making.

–          Change is inevitable and information becomes dated quickly; therefore hard data is many times recorded and reported when it is no longer useful.

4.Finally, a surprising amount of hard information is unreliable.

–          Although soft information is seen as unreliable due to subjective biases of individuals, hard data is not always transmitted and stored accurately or how it was thought to be relayed.

After Mintzberg defends soft data as a useful source of information, he concludes his article to say that the best information is gained by the use of both hard and soft data. When both are used, rich and meaningful information is gathered and can be examined for best practices.


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