Explore a real-world example of this strategy and its effects. Learn about some of the pitfalls of total data dependence and see how it can have a negative impact on the bottom line.
- One of my favorite stories about the intersection between hard data and soft intelligence comes from Nokia. A company who was once the world's largest cell phone manufacturer. In 2009, they hired a woman named Tricia Wang to work in their research department as a technology ethnographer, which is akin to a cultural anthropologist. Wang's job was to identify potential market opportunities by studying the preferences and habits of low income consumers in China. To say that she immersed herself in that task is putting it mildly. She spent several years living with Chinese migrants and she worked as a street vendor selling dumplings. She observed and interacted daily with people in neighborhood internet cafes. She asked questions and she listened to their answers. Really listened. Reading between the lines to capture the emotions and subtext of their responses. During this time, Wang gathered a wide range of profound personal insights directly from these people. Through her many conversations with the locals, she discovered something she didn't anticipate. Despite the very limited incomes, many Chinese people were so enamored with the new smartphones that they would sacrifice half of everything they earned in a month to have one. And those who didn't have smartphones desperately wanted one. Demand was enormous and completely unexpected in this demographic group. Essentially, Wang had uncovered a massive hidden market for affordable, limited feature smartphones. She enthusiastically shared this great news with Nokia executives. Who politely brushed it off as unimportant. After all, they had extensive, quantitative research with millions of data points and that research was clearly telling them to produce full-featured smartphones for high-end users. In their opinions, Wang's qualitative data and small sample size, didn't measure up to the mountain of numbers they already collected. Ultimately, Nokia paid a huge price for ignoring her recommendations. Looking at the numbers alone sent them down the wrong road with their brand strategy. In 2012, the company ended up losing four billion and ultimately was forced to sell off its phone business to Microsoft. Leaders in all types of companies run the risk of making the same tragic error in judgment. They tend to value the measurable more than the unmeasurable. They get blinded by the numbers and the statistics, so they miss out on the human insights behind them that can actually drive sales and revenue. Here's the key for you. Instead of thinking that qualitative information somehow dilutes the quantitative, reframe the equation. Added together, these two different types of data actually create a stronger, more vivid picture of your opportunities. Can you think of a time when you might have over-relied on hard data to make a decision that didn't turn out as well as you had hoped? With the benefit of hindsight, could a nugget of wisdom about the customer experience have changed your decision and potentially the outcome? Moving forward, how can you be more strategic about making decisions that integrate soft intelligence with the hard data? Find the balance. Make the commitment to be informed by data, but not fully driven by it.
- Adopting the strategic pause
- Disrupting your thinking
- Balancing hard data with soft intelligence
- Reevaluating your to-do list
- Communicating to influence and engage
- Approaching challenges as a novice
- Blazing new trails
- Conquering the chaos
- Enduring leadership attributes