Thursday, April 14, 2011

CKM and Spaghetti Sauce

One of the key components to clinical knowledge management is the discovery of actionable knowledge. The process of discovering knowledge is often more of an art than a science. A complex part of the art is asking the right question. The knowledge discovered and developed through data driven techniques such as data mining and statistical hypothesis testing are always framed by the questions being asked. Ask the wrong question, generate the wrong knowledge. Unfortunately, unless you know you are asking the wrong question you assume you are working with the right knowledge. 

Gains can be made when making decisions with the “wrong knowledge,” but they will be less than the gains made if decisions were made from the right knowledge. An excellent example of how knowledge is improved when you ask the right question is described by Malcolm Gladwell in his TED talk about the food industry and a spaghetti sauce breakthrough.

Gladwell describes how chunky spaghetti sauce revolutionized the food industry…  because companies stopped asking their research teams to find the perfect food and started to ask them to find the best food for a cluster of people. The right question was not “what is the perfect spaghetti sauce?”(or mustard or soda.) The right question was “which varieties of spaghetti sauce greatly appealed to large groups of people?” The result was more food options, happier customers and increased revenue.

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