As always, Seth Godin has got me thinking in his latest post - when data and decisions collide.
These are just a few of the millions of examples of counter-intuitive data-driven findings. It took Galileo decades to persuade people the light objects fell as fast as heavy ones... even though he was busy dropping them off buildings for all to see. I wonder how long it will take us to get our arms around this avalanche of insight. Probably longer than most of us think, and marketers that jump too quickly to data are going to be disappointed (while lifehackers that use the data are going to continue to have a huge advantage).
He cites the masters of old on how long it took Galileo to convince the world of his beliefs - and I would add, Copernicus. Or how long Semmelweis who advocated antiseptic and hygienic procedures inside operating rooms could save lives of mothers and infants.
When marketeers - or anybody else - are confronted with data or results from analyzing the data, the first reaction is almost always to doubt and question the data or the analyses results. Which is probably prudent - and something that I would advocate.
Whilst a data-man myself - and perhaps, to a certain extent, a data-manager and a data-freak - I think it's prudent to question the data.
My view is simple: Data are amoral. They are mere measures of things, of phenomena, of what's going on (or what's not). And how you use them is what really matters - and what needs to be scrutinized more deeply.
But how about when data/interpretations collide - what do we do?
Cognitive dissonance - it seems - occurs.
We all have preconceived notions. We may believe that apples are red - and only red. We are confident and comfortable in that. Once provided with a different evidence that shows apples are not always red, our sense of confidence and comfort are shattered. Dissonance between two things - our preconceived notion that apples are always red and never something else, and the new data that prove otherwise - occurs.
The tendency is to seek a new balance: either we accommodate the new information into our system - by accepting it as part of the possibilities that we face thereby reworking our framework, or we reject it altogether.
Which one is harder work? Reworking our framework.
The path of lesser resistance is to reject the new data/interpretations.
But what of those who text and drive?
Can cognitive dissonance help explain this? Hmmm.
I think what's at play is what can be called "Superman/Superwoman Complex" - the belief that "I have been texting and driving, and I am still alive... - and therefore it will remain that way."
Conscious or unconscious, I don't know.
It's the same as "it cannot happen to me" or "I have been doing this forever".
Which if you look at more closely is also some form of 'managing' cognitive dissonance.
What's our way out?
Problem and data presentation. This could be a way out.
Kahneman - a Nobel Laureate - has shown that presentation of problems has an impact on how people process information. Changing the how the problem is presented without changing the parameters could help.
Data visualization and presentation could also help. There are a number of studies that show that data visualizations help people grasp otherwise complicated information - and accept it. Data presentation also helps - how evidence is presented has an impact.
Now if only I could get this right with my clients. And with my writings. :D