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How hard it is to spot trends from data in a matter management system

One of the selling points for matter management systems is that astute managers can comb through the data collected and spot issues before they boil over (See my post of March 19, 2009: matter management system data needs analysis.). Unfortunately, human nature and our mental machinery work against that promise.

Many obstacles slow trend spotting. We are lazy. Then too there is lots of “noise in the system” – in retrospect a trend loomed right in front of us, but at the time so did a confetti parade of other data. False positives come from our genetic predisposition to find patterns that aren’t there; we want to find logic, connections, rational sequences of events even if fortuity and randomness rule. Our tendency to the self-confirming bias means we spot the patent litigation wave coming and forget we are a patent litigator.

Anyone can see a long list of blinders, blind spots and being blindsided is long. Still, better to try to find meaning in metrics.