You Can’t Deny Your Data (Even If You Don’t Like It)

Posted by Julie • March 29, 2023 • 4 min read

Data-Driven Organizations

One of the most challenging things we face as leaders is gathering and acting on data.

Data shows us the good results and the bad results…giving us the opportunity to remedy or double down on our paths.

In organizations, we see data and claim we are “data-driven” to act. The ability to act on data, in reality, can be different from simply knowing or seeing that data in the first place. Research says that, as humans, we may tend to ignore data that doesn’t align with our worldview.

What does this tendency mean for how we look at data inside our business results?

Here’s a Good Data story.

Recently, one of our teams presented good results around customers using a new feature. Customers using the new feature seemed to have a meaningful improvement in product usage. The patterns help us achieve our product adoption goals.

An observer might conclude, promote the new feature and encourage customers to use it! Our adoption metrics will likely increase, something we’re keenly focused on in 2023, and customers will find our solutions more valuable.

What actually happened? 

The team seemed to overlook the goodness because the corresponding plan needed to be stronger and capture positivity. 

Did the team not see the goodness in their own results and ignore the positive effects their feature build seemed to have on customers? Or, were we so busy looking at other things that we didn’t internalize the data in that area? 

It felt to me as though they had collected data…but never considered actually acting on it. Why?

It’s something we’re still pondering.

Here’s a Bad Data Story.

Let’s say a team has an initiative showing stagnating results. The actions that improve the outcomes happen infrequently, and failures to improve the outcomes are usually preceded with an excuse: “seasonality” or “economy.”

 The gap between meaningful actions likely means the initiative will continue to flounder.

I don’t think anyone intentionally ignores data. We just hope that the things we do will eventually bear fruit.

How many among us have heard stories of someone given a short time to live, only to overcome? Or being told something is impossible, only to find a way?

Hope is strong. This is a good thing. We often choose hope over data. 

But in business situations, avoiding consequential failures means rapidly identifying and correcting small failures if we’re honest about what we see in our data. If we’re willing to accept what we tried didn’t have the desired effect, we must try something new. New is risky. New is hard. but we must do it.

That’s where leaders, like me and others, come in. It’s clear we must quickly redirect our teams after small failures, creating a culture of acceptance and action to create positive outcomes.

Reacting and changing, even when the numbers are irrefutable, is not easy for us humans. 

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We’re doing the same things outside of business.

Consider climate change: we know it, but…how many of us act in substantive ways to reverse it? It’s a long game.

This is actually the battle we are fighting – our human nature to accept things that are in front of us. We’re not fighting numbers, we’re fighting ourselves and our ability to accept outcomes and act on them.

Leaders aren’t immune to hope. I often overlook data, willingly and not. I’ve been calling out the data to our teams and asking them to really see it, trust it, and act on it. 

This isn’t just an exercise for them. It’s for me, too. 

I will be reflecting on my own leadership style in this space. My ability to see results and act will affect the ways others respond to the data we gather. I hope to create a culture of accountability – with room to accept ourselves and the results of our efforts – good, bad, or neutral.

Want to gather data for your people operations? Consider scheduling a demo of Trakstar today.

All of our products, an Applicant Tracking System, Learning Management System, and Performance Management System, come with Trakstar Insights, a built-in analytics dashboard that crunches the numbers and helps you understand exactly what’s happening.

We’d love to talk to you.

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