Data driven?

It struck me last week that organisations claiming to be “data driven” might as well describe themselves as “electricity driven”. Whilst on the face of it a data driven moniker might express some sort of rational futurism in the culture of an organisation, it doesn’t really, ultimately, say anything at all.

I think implicit within the idea of “data driven” is that the organisation makes rational, measured decisions through the analysis of data. How nice.

But rational, measured decisions through the analysis of data isn’t really how humans work. We are much more likely to find some data to support a hunch or a decision that has already been made by someone else. That’s not rational decision making. That’s confirmation bias (and many others, no doubt) in action.

So by saying “data driven” are organisations actually indicating decisions made by machines? Some probably are – the likes of Google and Amazon will delight no doubt in remaking the world without any of those emotional humans dabbling with decisions.

All well and good, but that kind of data-driven decision making by machine isn’t the future – it’s merely the extrapolation of the past, with all of its quirks, oddities, biases and outright discriminations.

I also wonder how many self-proclaimed data driven organisation will also say that they regard their people as their most important asset? To be fair, if you’re the sort of organisation that uses cliches for business strategy, you’re probably going to liberally spray them around.

So data driven. Really? Are you?

What’s the real message that a data driven organisation is trying to get across? Trust us? Trust our processes? Trust our machines?

It’s worth exploring…

One thought on “Data driven?

  1. Data-driven to me is saying an org isn’t just going to go with a gut feel or “the way it’s always been done”. I agree it’s easy to twist data to support your own cause but it isn’t always used to support an opinion or strategy.
    For example, a company can look at data to decide see its most popular locations and sales time and make sure staff are resourced properly. That’s better than someone saying “we must always over-staff our London store because it can get really busy sometimes”
    It’s true though that data is just one lens to look at the world through. If designing or strategising, then a human-centred/systems thinking approach can work better than data alone.

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