Measurement is generally overrated, even fetishized. It can be discouraging, the expensive, fruitless endeavor of it all. Some of the most important aspects of success can’t be comprehended by data and analytics.
No instrument can register the butterfly effects of what we do. Success is more art than science, and the reaction we hope to engender, “this is good, and I’ll tell my friend that it’s good” is mostly subjective and uncontrollable.
Better to focus on value and quality and all the intuitive stuff of remarkable work. If you’re a content creator of any kind, do your best work and let the chips fall where they may. For all of our preparation, our A/B testing, success can feel like a crapshoot. Ask any honest book publisher about their hit vs miss rate. Ask them how the marketplace treated some of their sure-fire winners.
Caveat: I’m not deprecating practices like measuring the precise thickness of airplane sheet metal, where tools like Six Sigma come to bear in order to eradicate defects. I’m talking about overdoing measurement.
Why do we do it? Why do we amass so many tape measures? In large organizations, we’re motivated by fear. We want to justify our existence. “Why, if I can produce this arbitrary number, it might be impressive to those who must be impressed.” And so we feed the beast. Not with meaning, but with dumb numbers.
And with narratives we spin from data. Stories. But who do these stories serve?
Even with mountains of data, we run into cognitive bias. I like the term “Buyology” coined by Martin Lindstrom. We make emotional decisions that we rationalize later. (Lindstrom might object to my dismissal of too much data – he brings much data to bear in his book.) But how else can we make sense of the senseless things people in positions of power, surrounded by The Wizards of Smart With All The Data, buy into?
Measure only what matters, and only if you’ll act on it. As for the datafication of everything, I suspect it is a wasteful practice, digital detritus.
Here’s my bias in the investment realm as extrapolated here: Fundamental analysis trumps Technical.
We must understand the business we’re about in horse sense terms. If we’re not thinking about the business of our business, we have no business being in business. (And I’ll give you the business if you disagree.) I prefer the confirmation of my gut over some argument about trajectory and velocity and cycles.
Peter Lynch famously beat the market with horse sense. Observing, for example, that L’eggs was a cool product with smart retail POP displays. https://whr.tn/3BE9g4v
Even surveys, which look customer-informed, can become a form of data naval-gazing. We can become trapped by customer expectations. We can run smack into Clay Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma.
The answer to this conundrum is simple: Horse before cart: If we focus on remarkable work, products and service, the numbers that matter will eventually flatter.