Why is the promise of big data so much better than the reality?
Data has been extolled as the vanquisher of uncertainty, the harbinger of a robotic future, a necessity in every role from product management to engineering, sales to design.
Yet many of us who have tried to use data to inform decisions in organizations have experienced a different reality. One where we are constantly confused by how metrics are defined, bicker over how to interpret various analyses, and struggle to apply the insights into action.
It’s because building a data-informed culture is hard. Logging user actions, creating dashboards, running A/B tests, and shipping ML models — these are useful. But they are not the foundation of being data-informed.
We believe that being data-informed comes down to internalizing a set of values. These are simple, few, yet exceedingly powerful:
- Conviction around a purpose rather than searching for meaning in numbers
- Setting verifiable goals rather than vague aspirations
- Company-wide familiarity with metrics rather than outsourcing to “data people”
- Active testing of beliefs rather than seeking support for intuition
- Accepting probabilities rather than thinking in absolutes