Despite data and data analytics being top of mind for many organizations – and generative AI making waves in the news – many executives still bristle at the idea that data can add new insights to existing intuition and experience. “What’s wrong with my intuition?” I can hear them saying. “I’ve built a successful business with my intuition. It’s served me just fine up until now.” It’s a fair point. Many businesses’ leadership have decades of battle scars that help them avoid big mistakes, filter good ideas from bad ideas, and make good decisions despite having very little objective data. This is the whole point of resumes and interviews – we seek experienced candidates because we hope their experience will foster clarity and better decision-making in critical moments.
But the reality is that data does not replace experience. Moreover, data is not just to help people make better decisions. Data is a digital representation of real-world events, and when combined with experience and automation, it can be absolute gold. Equally, investing in data is less about “building some reports to address questions I already know the answer to” and more about streamlining business operations to free up time and money that can be spent (or saved) on innovation. It’s about tracking revenue and communicating KPIs broadly instead of panicking when it looks like the organization won’t meet its goals. It’s about anticipating demand for materials or equipment, for example, and ordering it just in time instead of holding inventory forever. It’s about automating regulatory reporting processes so teams don’t need to work through the night to compile the right documents. More than anything, investing in data is about investing in efficiency.
Data Doesn't Replace, it Augments
In other words, organizations that have turned data into a competitive advantage – organizations that are “data-driven” – haven’t replaced experience, they’ve augmented experience. They have freed up breathing room for teams around the organization so they can be proactive instead of reactive, so they don’t need to rush to put out fire after fire.
To be clear, data-driven organizations don’t robotically follow the data to wherever it leads like someone driving a car into a lake because the GPS told them to turn left. Instead, through data analytics and automation, they have given themselves the space to look around, think about where they should be headed, and determine how to get there. And thanks to automation, their teams – finally – have the bandwidth to get them where they want to go.
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