Mar 27 2013
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”
– Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Holmes goes on to say that when one theorizes before having data, “Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
You say at the office you never twist facts to suit your own theories? Remember, we’re talking about an often unconscious act here. Aside from unscrupulous business folks who knowingly twist facts to support their agenda, many people have no idea they’re distorting or denying the truth – such is the all-too-human difficulty in admitting we don’t have answers.
Certainly most business mistakes and missed opportunities would have had different outcomes if some analytics had been conducted. Actually, research helps businesses to greater success.
What we’re talking about is pragmatism. Sherlock Holmes might be the most pragmatic character in the history of literature: always trusting evidence rather than theory; looking at the specifics of the situation rather than some overarching narrative; preferring what works to what fits any preconceptions; willing to test ideas and change direction as is necessary.
Pragmatism isn’t practiced in Silicon Valley, where venture capitalists fund countless business projects on the assumption that most of them will fail. But there are still some Northeast Ohio businesses that could benefit from being a bit more pragmatic, which they resist because it requires gathering evidence, which is time-consuming, difficult to put across in a sound-bite, and, frankly, boring.
Nov 27 2012
Enter our hero, the LinkedIn Data Scientist. “He began forming theories, testing hunches, and finding patterns that allowed him to predict whose networks a given profile would land in.” His colleagues ignored his work, but his CEO listened.
So, you know those people LinkedIn suggests that you might want to connect with? That’s the result of this data scientist’s work, and it’s been a big success for the site.
The article describes a data scientist as “a high-ranking professional with the training and curiosity to make discoveries in the world of big data.”
Data scientists work with analytics–”the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.” ALL companies have data that could reveal meaningful patterns. Heck, someone analytical in nature can assimilate data and find patterns within a 6-year-old’s lemonade stand history.
Your company or organization has treasures of information within its walls, within the experience of your staff, your audience, your constituents. No doubt there are patterns within that data.
Those patterns would almost certainly tell you some things you’re not aware of, that will help you accomplish more, or reach a wider, or more targeted, audience, or run your operation more economically, something.
ColemanWick LLC. Sex gods for hire.
Sep 13 2012
Market research, like a computer, becomes outdated in three years.
A lot can happen in three measly years. Just ask Lord Kelvin – you know, the guy whose name is on the scale of absolute temperature. Around 1892 he proclaimed that “X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” Three years later he had his hand x-rayed.
In 2009 the Indianapolis Colts were AFC champs. Last season they won all of two games.
When it comes to market research, three years is a lifetime. Generally speaking, three years is considered to be the average life span for the validity of most market research – after that the validity of most data becomes a bit suspect.
At ColemanWick LLC, we’ve observed that a lot of Northeast Ohio for-profit and nonprofit folks – whether they’ve been at their job for five years or twenty – tend to think of their audience, and maybe even their marketplace or community, in pretty much the same way as they always have. Guess we humans are simply creatures of habit…unless something unexpected comes along to jar us, assumptions tend to stay assumptions.
But consider that over the last three years, while you were busy running your organization (commendably, no doubt), your audience was aging, shifting, experiencing personal growth, expanding their minds (some of them, anyway), earning more or less money, acquiring new tastes and sensibilities. Plus, over that time you have gained new customers or constituents and lost others.
Yup, a whole lot can happen in three years. If you haven’t done market research in that long, chances are dang good you’re missing an opportunity or three.
Jun 29 2012
Amazingly, many business people assume that their instincts and experience are enough to fully understand how customers think, and in turn, how they’ll behave.
Well guess what. When companies or organizations actually conduct market research, they always learn things they didn’t know. Even more importantly, it’s not uncommon for management to find they had made assumptions that were utterly, completely wrong.
Experienced, smart, successful people make faulty assumptions all the time. Even the smartest person in history made a colossal faulty assumption: Albert Einstein claimed nuclear energy would never be attainable.
But it’s not always just a matter of being mistaken. Robert Kaplan, professor of management practice at Harvard, says the biggest danger lies in not realizing a decision is based on an assumption in the first place.
Maybe it’s simply a function of the times in which we live, the accelerated pace of our lives—we want to act now…damn the torpedoes.
Speaking of torpedoes, H.G. Wells didn’t believe submarines were a viable idea.
So you can see why ColemanWick, LLC suggests you go ahead and invest in research. All of us, like Einstein and Wells, know a bit less than we think we do.
Jun 05 2012
Every one of us is an experienced researcher. Before crossing a busy street we look both ways. That’s research. Before biting into old cheese from the fridge, we smell it. Research.
Though you’ve successfully eaten cheese your whole life, you recognize those times when you don’t have enough data to eat it straight away. What’s the lifespan for this particular cheese? How long has it been in the back of this cheese drawer?
Yet within the professional world, far bigger decisions are made every day, based on little or no research whatsoever.
An ice cream company introduces a new flavor without realizing customers find the packaging unappealing. An industrial giant is unaware that if their hydraulic hoses were priced lower, they would have seen higher net profits year after year. A non-profit organization has no idea that their name misleads people about what they do. The list is endless.
Why in some situations are we able to admit we don’t have all the answers, but not in others?
A question for another day, another newsletter.
But there are some who totally grasp the crucial value of market research. Before opening his B Spot at the Q, Michael Symon did market research to make sure the concept made sense for Cavs fans, as well as what prices were within fans’ comfort zones. More than providing just raw numbers, the market research helped Symon and his team fully understand the fan experience – how the emotions tied to food connect to the emotional side of attending a game. He also tapped into the connections between hometown pride for the Cavs and hometown pride for a local celebrity chef.
At ColemanWick LLC, we’ve observed how, whether it’s to become aware of unknown or misunderstood metrics, or to better understand the sensibilities and preferences of a given audience, nearly every company and organization, large and small, stands to gain a hefty ROI when conducting market research
May 16 2012
Data doesn’t care whether you’re for profit or not-for-profit.
A recent talk at Cleveland’s City Club by Mario Morino was a positive sign that NPOs are starting to understand the importance and value of tracking and analyzing data.
Morino, a Cleveland-born philanthropist whose paperback “Leap of Reason” garnered ample buzz last year, is frustrated at how so many nonprofits don’t strive to fully grasp all the meanings within their results. He challenges organizations to begin using data, even reinventing themselves if appropriate.
Morino’s message is for the funders as much as it is for the NPOs. “At a minimum funders should be supporting efforts to help nonprofits: a) track the outcomes of those served; (b) undertake at least basic analysis of this information; and (c) identify how they can use the information to learn and improve their programs over time”, he says.
To name just one example, after reading Morino’s book the Saint Luke’s Foundation, in an unprecedented move, decided that non-board members with expertise in key areas will be appointed to committees, presumably offering their objective, real-world observations and input.
In the case of ColemanWick LLC, which already provides a suite of services around these ideas, Morino is preaching to the choir. But overall, the size of the choir seems to be growing—good news for us, even better news for Cleveland organizations that are open to his message…they can establish best practices for attracting funding for, and implementing, market research for NPOs.
May 01 2012
The Numbers Are In–And They’re Good
You’ve heard about brain drain – how for years graduates have been leaving NE Ohio in droves. Well, we need a new mantra, like The learned have returned. (Well, catchier than that.)
Businesses should be up on this trend, and others like it down the road, continually tracking changes in the demographics and tastes of their consumers.