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#582: Consider the Source

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Over my long career, I've come to realize that some sources of information are better than others. Information from some people I can count on and from others I am a skeptic. Any thoughts on how to avoid bad sources?

The ability to know who to trust and who not to is an acquired skill. But, beyond the source, for information to be valuable, it must be accurate, timely and relevant.

First of all, consider the source. If it is a person, have they always been reliable or just some times. If it is a data source, is its reputation with others and your own experience convince you it is trustworthy? Is there a reason to doubt the source? Is there a conflict where a source has a stake in your having incorrect, or at least misleading, information? Is there any reason to think there might be "spin" involved?

Next, consider the information itself. How current is it? Is it actual data or an estimate, projection or forecast? How accurate is it? How accurate does it have to be for your purposes? Is it the right information? Are you using data that are a proxy for the real data you can't locate? What are the implications for you and your client if the data are wrong?

Tip: Good researchers and journalists double check their sources and data quality. When you are not using data generated by your client's organization, you need to be especially careful to meet or exceed the data quality and analytical standards of your client.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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