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New Ivey Academy course brings a data-focused lens to business decision-making

May 2, 2023

Increasingly, organizations are harnessing the power of data to drive growth and success, but data is only useful if you know what to do with it.

The new Data-Informed Leadership course from The Ivey Academy helps leaders to determine what specific data can help with complex business decisions and how to work with analysts to derive valuable insights. It’s just one of the ways Ivey is helping leaders to prepare for the evolution of work, which is one of the critical issues facing business and society identified in the Ivey Next strategy.

The seven-module online course beginning October 16 contains a mix of virtual sessions and self-paced learning activities and the chance for participants to apply concepts from the course to a real challenge or opportunity in their organization.

The course will be taught by Laurel Austin, Associate Professor of Management Science, and Tiffany Bayley, Assistant Professor of Management Science, who will jointly teach some sessions and lead other sessions individually. Austin and Bayley co-created the learning modules and each bring a different area of expertise. Austin, a Behavioural Decision Theorist, is focused on how people make decisions and what strengths and limitations they have in the decision-making process, which will help to determine where people might struggle with data. Bayley, who has a PhD in Management Science, will focus on how to analyze data and why it’s important. Bayley’s work at Ivey most recently has centred on teaching innovation and how to make tough topics, such as data analysis, more engaging. Together, Austin and Bayley will help participants to become comfortable with using data and bring a data-centric lens to their leadership.

“There is so much more data available today, and a lot more discussion about 'data-driven' decision-making. But a lot of people haven’t had training in that, and using data in decision-making is not intuitive for most people,” said Austin. “Many of us need help understanding how to translate a problem or opportunity into data needs, how to gather the right data to answer questions, and then in drawing valid conclusions from that data.”

Bridging the gap with data professionals

And while other data-related courses often focus on the technical aspects, Ivey’s offering is less about data-analysis techniques and more about how to help leaders work with data professionals at their organizations to ensure the right data is considered, and that analyses and conclusions are appropriate.

“Even though they might not be working directly with the data themselves, leaders should understand what’s available to them and how to communicate with the data scientists and the analysts at their companies. Then they can ask the right questions and get the right tools to answer those questions,” said Bayley. “I want the participants to be comfortable with interpreting the reports, not necessarily doing the mathematical computations, and to recognize when to say, 'this needs to be fixed.'"

Given how much more access there is to science and data, Austin said it’s important for everybody to become more data literate. Ivey’s course will also walk participants through topical cases so they can see how data-informed decision-making is valuable in many of today’s business contexts.

Real-life application

Participants will also work on an action project, which involves looking at something going on at their organizations where data analysis might lead to a better decision and applying learnings from the course to that real-life issue and reporting back on the results.

“The goal is for participants to apply what they’re learning in real time to some real-life projects,” said Bayley. “It’s good for leaders to have the instinct to know what they want to do, but that comes from experience. To complement their experience, they should also have some evidence to show that they’re moving in the right direction.”

Watch the video about Data-Informed Leadership above.