Cherish That Gut Feel!

“Every company is a data company.” I hear this often from industry leaders everywhere and not just in technology companies. It is true that data is immensely helpful in decision making be it about products to develop, markets to penetrate, customers to target or in creating personalized, more relevant experiences for our customers. Data, and more importantly, insights derived from data, give us confidence in our decisions and in our plans. Beyond the obvious utilization of information, the future where connected devices, homes, cities, and grids will soon be commonplace, there’s no denying that data is integral to our lives both online and off. Data is important.

As the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes stated, “it is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data”, our everyday decision making relies heavily on data. Data is essential for decision making. It is interesting to note, however, that Sherlock was trying to deduce the past, attempting to piece together of “what already happened”. Data is very useful when the intention is to look back. You need more than data to imagine the future.

As I have accumulated more years, I am perturbed by the overemployment of data in how we make business decisions. First, there’s never enough data. The very nature of data is that we always want more of it. How many times have we wondered, “only if I had just this one other piece of information”?

Second, data is impersonal. Data numbs us to be what makes us tick as humans – emotions. When we deal just in data, we deal just in the realm of the “rational”. Majority of us, and our customers, are irrational decision makers - driven by impulse, invigorated by new experiences and prone to injudicious choices. The upside of irrationality? Learning. The upside of learning? Innovation and creativity!

Third, driven just by data, we continuously reinforce a singular premise, the one that we are most comfortable with, the one we can recognize easily and the one that provides an easier path to action. What’s missing? The inclusion of the incongruous, the inconsistent, the disagreeable. We reverberate in our own echo chamber oblivious to the assortment of possibilities available. We miss the opportunity to be surprised, and hence, to be delighted!

This is where our instincts take on an important role. When we lack enough information, when we get too comfortable with our choices, when we feel we have it figured out, we need to pause to listen to what our instincts have to say. When we listen to our instincts, we can tackle challenges based on an internal knowledge-hub that grows throughout our lifetimes. What is this knowledge-hub that acts as our savior? Our gut. Gut is the sum of all our experiences brought to bear to a singular challenge.

Each one of us takes a different path through life and our experiences along the way shape how we act and helps us develop our own core beliefs. This core can help drive wisdom in our thinking and action. This unique core is what helps us collaborate with others and provide a different perspective than theirs. It makes it possible to create something new.

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