Don't be duped by your data
Jeff & Lindsay Sage / 31 August 2018

Data never sleeps. 

By 2020, it’s estimated that for every person on earth, 1.7 MB of data will be created every second. 

But just because we have it, doesn’t mean it’s helpful. 

Raw data can sometimes be the justification you need for inaction on things that need to change. 

A cautionary cod tale

In the 1970s cod was so plentiful it served as the cornerstone of the Atlantic economy. Over time, fishing fleets got bigger and utilized better technology, like side scan sonars, GPS and fish finders.

Overfishing became rampant and scientists and fishermen began to notice individual cod were getting smaller and the cod populations were shrinking and disappearing from inshore areas. 

Despite the overfishing data pouring in from daily first hand accounts and scientists, fisherman and corporations fought the conservation movement. They denied scientific evidence and pointed to the big catches that temporarily returned (while populations continued to shrink) as proof of the population's overall health. 

By the 1990s cod hit their lowest point in recorded history - 12% of the level thought to be necessary to sustain a healthy population. 

They had harvested away their own futures. 

The data alone doesn't drive desirable decision making

There’s no point to your data unless it yields strategic insight. 

Consider interpreting your data as part of a process, according to your organization's strategic business and marketing plans, instead of as individual data points.

  1. Collect and organize the data - You don’t want to do a lot of interpreting here. Think of it like staring at the individual pieces of a modern mosaic up close. Individually it looks like a multitude flowers and sunsets, but when you pull back, it’s two tanks sword fighting in space. (Don't make strategic decisions based on the size and quantity of fish in your boat that day).  
  2. Analyze the patterns and trends - This is where you make sense of your data. 25,00 new unique users to your product’s landing page seems great in isolation, but with a .01% increase in sales within the same group, it’s clear that a change needs to be made. 
  3. Utilize the insight to drive your movement - This is where you harness the value of the data + analysis to make scale or fail decisions. It’s hard to change what you can’t measure. (Make time to understand the points of view of the people who study data, patterns and trends over time. Even if you disagree with them, they'll have perspective that will be helpful, even if it means less fish for you in the short term). 

Put yourself in an evidence based position so that when the data makes it clear that you need to make a change, you can make it. 

You can choose to look at the evidence or look away. 

But don’t be duped. 

Everything else is just a fish tale. 


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