Do we have the data? If not, the best we can do is offer an opinion. As Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape, once said, “If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine.” And if you follow the quote to the ultimate conclusion regarding Netscape's outcomes, perhaps Barksdale's opinion was not enough.
Data without thought is just as dangerous as opinions. Too much data of the same type is the cause of data traps, as we discussed in the last chapter. And if you recall, we then infer that someone really appreciates the clean clothes that come out of our washing machines, only to find that they're really making cheese.
Decision makers fall prey to data traps when trying to make decisions with the data that can be obtained cheaply and easily, rather than the data really needed to solve the problem or make the decision. For example, marketers used to make decisions about broadcast advertising effectiveness based on Nielsen ratings because Nielsen data was all that was available; now they can also include social media measures of engagement thanks to Bluefin Labs or Nielsen's joint venture with Twitter. But the real question is whether these are the right measures for your business, rather than only easy measures to buy.
Even with all of the possible sources of data, most companies are still not acquiring the right data at the right time. In one recent study, only 36 percent agreed that the data available to support ...