Analytics and the Art of Decision-Making

So I just read a LinkedIn post from Jack Welch about the benefits of trusting your gut when it comes to decision-making, and it got me thinking about the world of analytics.  In his article (which is worth a quick read), he states that you should trust your gut in decisions concerning business deals, but not decisions regarding hiring personnel.  My thought is this: it seems as though the world has become obsessed with more and better data, which is fine (it keeps me employed after all).  But are humans really creatures of logic and data?

I can only speak for myself here, but I know that I’ve based a large percentage of professional and personal decisions on my gut instinct, either without or in the face of any data.  The results, as you can imagine, have been mixed…but the point is: what is it that causes me to eschew data and reason for instinct?  If you’re thinking to yourself , “Hey, didn’t Malcolm Gladwell write about this??”, then congratulations to you, because he did.  So check out Blink if you want a breakdown of this topic from someone more intelligent than me.  But for the sake of this post, let’s look at the issue from a web analytics perspective.

We check our analytics data weekly, and for the most part we keep the analysis pretty basic.  Which pages are attracting traffic, which are engaging visitors, etc.  Strangely, anytime a page that I had a hand in producing is not performing up to par, my first thought is “that can’t be right” or “that must be a fluke for this week”.  Is that “instinct”?  I would argue that it’s simply a bias, either conscious or sub-conscious.  So when we’re talking about “instinct” as it pertains to decision-making, aren’t we really just talking about that person’s lifetime of accumulated biases?

The goal of analytics, in a perfect world, is to illuminate every decision with data, making every decision very cut and dried.  However, the world is far from perfect…so “instinct”, human bias, and even office politics will always play a role in any decisions made from the data.  I guess the best advice would be this:  when the data speaks, you should listen.  And if you have a gut instinct with a counter viewpoint, ask yourself WHY.  And if you can’t answer that simple question, then go with the data.  Collect good data and trust it, and you’ll rarely make poor decisions.




Posted under Analytics Thought of Day by NickThompson on 12th November, 2013 Tagged , |

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