When business experience and instinct meet unexpected data insights


Companies that invest in digital transformation almost always sponsor an innovative and data-driven culture as the foundation for that transformation. They understand that when data informs business decisions, it's critical to drive that innovation and the culture supporting it.

So, what do you do when a team of subject matter experts with over 110 years of collective experience collaborates to design a new product, and the adoption/conversion data indicates that the team's “great idea” wasn’t as great as the group anticipated? At the moment, instinct, experience, and passion collide with unexpected data insights; it begs the question, which side will win at your company?

I recently experienced this dilemma while working with my incredibly talented web development group. The team leveraged data from many user and adoption tests to construct what we believed to be a hybrid of all the winning strategies. The numbers returned well below our baseline and forced the team to reinvent how we approached the project.

Several weeks later,  after applying numerous content and design changes without success we arrived at a crossroads. We came face to face with the prospect of scraping four months of work and starting over, I have to admit that at that moment, we all privately considered ignoring the data in favor of our instinct, experience, and passion.

This is a common hurdle for data-driven companies. I have always been a proponent of infusing analytics with human insights to make better decisions. Frankly, it would have been easier to push forward with the project and ignore the data.

All companies struggle in these circumstances. We have all been in meetings when executives dismiss a data point, visualization, or push a report aside and declare it inaccurate or not quite right for the decision so they can follow their instincts or their heart. What happens at your company when faced with this challenge? It boils down to being genuinely dedicated to augmenting your business with the power of data, even though it might highlight a failure.

This ”failure” allowed us to commit to our data-driven processes and gave us the freedom and time to optimize our work and get it right. Teri Richter, Senior Director of Web Operations, said it best. “We needed to fail long enough so the collected data could help us understand what the problem was.” After weeks of hard work and creativity, the team found the answer in the new test data and utilized it to innovate.

Things to remember:

  1. Data can quickly identify wins and, perhaps more importantly failure, data insights provide the path to success if you stay committed to it.
  2. Hold on tight to your data-driven culture by not allowing instincts to overrule the data facts, even if it’s difficult.
  3. Give your team time to refine, and apply what the data is telling them so they can iterate to a better outcome.
  4. Don't give in to the pressure of delivery over data-driven insights.

By Shawn Rogers

Keywords: Analytics, Leadership, Culture

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