Drinking From The Fire Hose by Christopher Frank & Paul Magnone - Book review

Drinking from the Fire Hose

Making Smarter Decisions Without Drowning in Information

By: Christopher J. Frank, Paul F. Magnone

Published: September 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN-10: 1591844266
ISBN-13: 978-1591844266
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin

"Whenever you feel like a data storm is about to block out the sun, we want you to turn to the straightforward questions that form the backbone of this book - questions that we still ask ourselves every day. In other words, don't ask us: ask yourself. But ask the right questions", write vice president at American Express, Christopher Frank; and vice president of business development and alliances at Openet, Frank Magnone, in their insightful and provocative book Drinking from the Fire Hose: Making Smarter Decisions Without Drowning in Information. the authors describe the critical importance of asking the deep and probing questions that divide data into groups that measure and groups that inform.

Christopher Frank (photo left) and Paul Magnone recognize the problems and challenges, presented to business leaders, by the huge amount of data generated in today's companies. as a result, the authors suggest that decision makers pose probing questions about the nature and value of that heavy data stream. Every piece of data tells a story, and the numbers only provide part of that narrative.

The authors advise leaders to look deeper into the numbers, and into the overall data, through questions that seek well researched answers. For the authors, data that offers real solutions to problems facing the organization will very often be overlooked due to the bias of supporting the existing strategic plan. Instead, the authors share the idea of asking where the surprises in the data were found, and to dig more deeply into the those surprising bits of information. The result may be a business transformational concept simply awaiting discovery.

Paul Magnone (photo left) and Christopher Frank understand the difficulty of sorting the useful and game changing information from the deluge of misleading or status quo supporting data. Their solution is to ask challenging questions. The the use of smarter questions, the difference making data, and especially the unexpected surprise data, will present itself to decision makers. Instead of offering prescriptive answers, the authors propose the asking of challenging and information seeking questions.

The authors offer seven specific questions to ask of the data:

* What is the essential business question?
* Where is your customer's North Star?
* Should you believe the squiggly line?
* What surprised you?
* What does the Lighthouse reveal?
* Who are your swing voters?
* The three W's: What? So What? Now what?

For me, the power of the book is how Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone turn traditional data concepts upside down. The authors start by dividing the data stream into data that measures, and data that informs. The ability to understand the differences between these two types of data is critical for developing breakthrough strategies. Unlike most business books, the authors decline the opportunity to offer advice and to provide answers to problems. Instead, they take the opposite approach of asking their seven fire hose questions.

Through this informed questioning process, the previous assumptions about the data, what it measures, and the level that informs decisions, comes into sharp focus. With each question, an entire chapter is devoted to understanding the reasoning behind the questions, and how to apply the question to extract the most meaningful and informed responses.

I highly recommend the thought provoking and profound book Drinking from the Fire Hose: Making Smarter Decisions Without Drowning in Information by Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone, to any business leaders who are seeking a fresh approach to understanding and utilizing the steady downpour of data that floods into their offices each day. Through the discerning questioning technique, the useful and informing data can be separated from the data that merely measures, and very often measures the wrong things. This book will change your organization from one that looks for easy answers, and instead asks the difficult and challenging questions.

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