The Danger Of Data

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Even the best performers in their sector can be misled by data. Are you?

In this vlog, Grant explains the importance of differentiating between quantitative data and qualitative input.

Let me give you an example. Alex Ferguson was notorious for selling players at the right time, but he famously has one regret and that’s when he sold Jaap Stam to Latzio. You see, what Alex Ferguson did, is he looked at the data and the data was telling him that, season on season, Jaap Stam was making less tackles than ever before. But Alex Ferguson was looking at the quantitative data, the facts and the numbers.

Well, you also need to take into account is the qualitative data. That’s the story, the narrative, the customer perception, the context that goes around that data. The reason why Jaap Stam was making less tackles was because his positioning was better. He was becoming a better defender. And so he was needing to make less tackles because he was getting to the ball before the strikers first. So looking at pure data, Alex Ferguson was right. Jaap Stam was making less tackles, but of course, the story told something completely different.

And so when we look at data, data doesn’t lie. Data always tells you the factual information, but without taking into account the story around the data, what your customers are telling you, what’s happening in the markets, the context around which things are occurring. If you don’t take those into consideration, then you can be misled by the data.

Let me give you an example. You may have a website full of country information for tourists, and suddenly you find Ukraine’s being hit all the time. But of course, the context is that Russia had invaded Ukraine and people were going on the site, because they were inquisitive about the geography and how the land lies. If you just look at the data, you can interpret it and say more people want to go on holiday to Ukraine, which clearly, when they’re at war, is ridiculous.

Story matters when you’re looking at the numbers. So consider; not just the quantitative data – the pure numbers – but qualitatively, what is going on around them. What is the story the numbers are telling me?

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