Simplify Information for Better Decisions

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StopThink Process


The explosion in the amount of information has profound consequences for decision-making. Information passed to you by others could be right, wrong, or simply not applicable. Yet you are held accountable for decisions based on this information, regardless of time constraints.

The inability to value and select useful information degrades three basic work activities:
Daily information processing

At some point errors from information overload cause information flow to become turbulent - rework and extra communications consuming the majority of employees' time. Error-related information processing will grow exponentially from excess information.

Group decisions

There can be little confidence in any group's decisions without agreement on the problem and its most relevant information. It is costly to waste the participants' time and knowledge capital in misguided collaboration.

Managing information assets

Using bad or irrelevant information decreases the risk-adjusted return on existing information assets and managerial practices. If decisions are interlocked then the low returns will cascade throughout the entire organization.
If all three activities suffer from information overload then the organization will be unable to function properly. The accumulation of faulty decisions can lead to failures such as the breakup of the Space Shuttle Columbia.


By stopping and thinking about the information needed to understand a specific task (solve a problem), irrelevant information can be eliminated and the remainder fused for quick evaluation. This portable knowledge base, called an infosphere, can be easily communicated and quickly modified by the team. Using employee knowledge capital to simplify information produces infospheres that reflect the organization's unique pattern of information use.

The StopThink process has three steps: tasking, fusion, and valuation.


The first step is to assign known information to tasks. A task, which solves some problem, can be an on-going operation or a special project. It is possible for tasks to be nested inside one another.

Once the task has been identified, the task "problem" is expressed as a series of questions that fall into the following categories: WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN (fact representation). In addition, the information sources, as well as their quality, must be generally specified for each category.

For an example see
[ Apollo 13: Focus on Recovery ]


StopThink Index This step begins by using employee knowledge and pattern recognition skills to reduce the number of WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN questions by finding common themes, favoring categories with available, accurate information. These relationships become HOW-type or procedural questions (information representation) which in the final step are fused into WHY-type or cause and effect questions (system representation) to form the basis of a knowledge schema. The simplification process naturally improves accuracy by eliminating irrelevant information, each Critical Question representing a field of inquiry that can be actualized as a meeting topic, e-mail thread, and aggregation folder. (see E-Mail F.I.T.™)

Answering the Critical Questions creates the task's infosphere, a portable knowledge base used in performing the task. Discovery of hitherto unused but valuable information may suggest better solutions to the problem.

For an example see
[ Kosovo Peacekeeping Crisis: Improved information Points to a Solution ]


StopThink Index The ST-Index measures the infosphere's usefulness in terms of the task's probability of success. The index is calculated using a Bayesian statistic which combines a subjective knowledge score with test or simulation results (of multiple processes or uses of the infosphere. See the Glossary for definitions). Though Critical Questions are ranked by vote, the ST-Index is attributed equally to all information necessary in forming the infosphere.

The ST-Index index can be input into a real options pricing mechanism in order to determine the dollar value of the infosphere*, individual infosphere elements, and associated information assets. In addition, a risk-adjusted return and associated analytics can be calculated for the task. The ST-Index also serves as an input to Flow Potential, a measure of potential information velocity.

Valuation is completed with a review of the task once it is finished, surveying the infosphere for strengths and weaknesses. Based on this analysis, the Task Team identifies how successes can be sustained and shortcomings improved. The review can also be used to quickly deconstruct existing practices into infospheres for understanding and evaluation.

For an example see
[ Nuclear Bomb Recovery: Measuring Knowledge ]

* Present Value of Investment - European Put (present value of risk). The investment's infosphere is debited as a short synthetic put (Value-Call), which is derived from the Put-Call parity.

Model of Process
[ click to view ]


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