The “Chicken Little Syndrome” is a concept in Cognitive Psychology that states how the human mind fills in gaps of understanding and jumps to conclusions.
For example, Deborah sits at home wondering why Dave hasn’t called yet. Dave must have a reason for not calling. The reason must be that he is angry. What did she say to anger him? It must have been their last phone conversation. She remembers making a comment about Steve, his good friend who’s also a friend of her brother. He must have told Steve, and now Steve is trying to drive a wedge between them. The nerve of Steve. The next time she sees Steve, she plans to… and then … Dave knocks at the door to surprise her with flowers and take her to dinner. Deborah jumped to conclusions with no factual base at all. And each jump brought her farther from the truth than before. After telling Dave of her rationalizations, Dave calls her neurotic, runs out the door, and calls Steve on his way to the sports bar to tell him never to setup him up on a blind date again. Hey, not all stories have a happy ending!
As kids, we all played the group game “I’ve got a secret”. It starts in a big circle where one person tells the one on his left a few unrelated gossip items. That person tells the person on their left what they heard, and so on. When it gets to the end, the last person proclaims the gossip they heard and it is compared to the original gossip. I used to think that childhood attention deficit was the explanation for how the truth gets distorted until I saw the same results in adults at a party. I then realized the obvious explanation; those kids must have been drinking too.
So, how does this all relate to Master Data Management (MDM)?
Businesses cannot afford to jump to conclusions and need to make their decisions based on reliable information. The better the quality, integration, and standardization of the information, the more precise analyses can be. Speculation should only exist in running “what if” scenarios which should model several possible outcomes, not just the single worst case like Deborah did.
And as information flows through an organization, it changes just as in the party game. Without strict governance rules and controls, information can easily change its meaning or become completely corrupt and unusable. Or worse, information could appear usable and be taken as fact when it truly is incorrect or not correct for the applied purpose.
Consider your MDM strategy and ensure the word “Master” really applies. Consumers of MDM information should rely on the Master information, not a version of it that has been passed through multiple “gossip-like” systems. Oh, and tell your kids not to drink.