I usually start my blog posts with an idea of what I want to write but having no clue about how to end it. This one started after some conversations we have been having in Angry Ventures about the importance of data-driven decisions.
First of all, data is definitely important. If you want, I invite you to read Anna’s post that gives you a better overview of data collection and its importance in the business context. In this post, I would like to highlight one of her topics: the one that tells you not to collect everything “just in case”.
From my perspective, unplanned and aleatory data collection is (most of the times) useless. Unless you know what to measure, then having data just for the sake of having it won’t help you. On the contrary, it will make you data-blinded, either by data overload.
How to diagnose data-blindness?
The diagnosis of data-blindness is quite simple. Think about the questions you have during your working time and ask yourself if you have data to answer them. If not, either you don’t have data at all, or you have data that is not relevant to what you need.
The next time you feel that you’re taking a decision based on your gut, put the questions you have on a paper. At the end of the week or the month, I’m sure you’ll have a list of them. After that, you just have to work in a way (technological or not) to get easy access to the information.
Be aware that one problem you’ll face is to know when to stop. By nature, after the first question, humans start making others. To avoid mistakes, try to categorize questions/answers distinguishing between the ones that you really need and the others that more like a “nice-to-have”.
The relevancy of the question really depends on the context, job or project for instance. Imagine that you’re a marketing manager working for a restaurant. Wouldn’t you like to know what’s your customer’s favorite super-hero? Well, maybe that is not that relevant unless you’re working for McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Data-blindness and technology
Technology is incredible but these days we tend to believe that it will be a solution for everything, and that’s not necessarily the truth. When we are speaking of data, technology is “merely” an enabler that may help you access or process data. If you don’t know what you need and don’t make the right questions, technology won’t do the job for you.
Furthermore, when we are speaking of technology we also tend to think about tons of integrations and crossing data platforms. Those are ok if you have a big company or if you are a strategical decision maker, but if you work for a smaller company or you have a very specific role, maybe you won’t need something that complex.
What I mean is that, instead of focusing on technology, focus on the question and on the decision you’ll make once you have the answer.
Don’t use data to justify the decision you already made
That’s something we do a lot. Instead of letting data give us the answer, we give the answer ourselves and then go dig for arguments that prove that our answer/decision is the best one.
It’s good to keep our mind open and have enough courage to recognize that what our gut feeling tells us is probably not the most logical way to go.
Another thing that happens a lot is that data doesn’t tell you exactly where to go. Ok, some decisions are pretty black and white, but others can take subjectivity and interpretation. This means that data isn’t necessarily connected with the outcome. What matters the most is what we do with it.