In a recent CIO article, columnist Bob Lewis argues that while some companies tweak their analysis parameters to support desired outcomes, this ultimately curtails their data analytics success. What’s worse, according to Lewis, is that other organizations catch on to this trend. If things continue, he fears that ultimately data analytics will be used not for illumination but rather as ammunition by executives who start with the decision they want and work backward to find the parameters needed to support it.

Lewis urges technology leaders to review their culture and ensure it’s one of honest inquiry. So how can you take steps to do the same within your organization? You can start by considering the following:

1. Exhibit the curiosity gene

If you want your reports to care about honest inquiry, you must first show that you care about what’s going on. Financial reports, dashboards, and other forms of reporting exist to make you smarter and better informed. If they aren’t delivering on this goal, rebuild them. Or, if questions remain unanswered, tweak them.

2. Confidence comes from doubt

Lewis writes that certainty, by comparison, often has its roots in lazy arrogance. If you encounter someone on your team whose certainty prohibits others from making their case, they are likely doing more harm than help to your data analytics culture.

3. Start with the decision process

Focusing on the decision process first necessitates a discussion of how to create confidence in the outcome. Inevitably, this will yield a better decision, a stronger consensus, and help more employees realize the benefit of honest inquiry.

4. Beware of anecdotes and metaphors

These are useful for illustration but shouldn’t be employed for persuasion. Unless you’re explaining your point of view or demonstrating that something is possible, you should be relying solely on statistically valid evidence.

5. Build your culture of honest inquiry one decision at a time

As with any cultural change, creating an environment of honest inquiry requires patience, persistence, and self-awareness. Don’t expect too much too soon or bite off more than you can chew. Focus on implementing incremental change, one decision at a time, and ultimately you’ll see long-term benefits.

Lewis expands upon more of the above and other tips in his CIO piece, which you can read in its entirety here.