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Data is a powerful asset to businesses. It measures progress, both in real time and the long-term, helping managers project future growth. While it gives us information on where a company or employee stands as it relates to its goals, it does not give us the tools to get there. This is where ideas come in. Some business professionals are divided as to whether data or ideas win out, dividing the two into separate corners, but the truth is that ideas beget data and data begets ideas. It’s not a binary choice to make.
Data and ideas coexist and work together to help you make the best business choices. You can’t have one without the other.
The best tools one can employ in their business model are those that merge the best we can draw from both data and ideas to create a well-rounded map toward success. When we look at gamification tools and performance measurements, for instance, we might only see results, rankings, numbers on a scale, at first. However, to get this data, interpret, and use it requires thinking outside the confines of numbers.
Primarily, before you can get data on something, you need to know what to measure—and those measurements are not going to be the same in every business or department.
If you are looking to better analyze your sales department, for instance, you may immediately be drawn to conversion rates of clients, which is an important yardstick to measure. But, it is not going to tell us why a conversion rate is low nor will it detail why it is increasing quarterly.
For those details, or measurements, we need to look to our people for ideas. Are they:
When we explore the nuance a broad set of data gives us, we may realize it’s not that our sales team is not working hard enough or that consumers do not want our product. It might be, simply, that our method and approach needs to change. If we know what we want data to tell us, we can tailor our methods ahead of time to be more detailed and pick up on the peculiarities of a situation.
Once you determine what you want to get from the data and you mobilize the tools needed to get it, you must learn how to read and react to it. This is especially helpful when you analyze employee performance data.
Data won’t detail the “why” behind your top selling employee frequently arriving late to work and displaying low energy or lack of enthusiasm at team events. But as managers, part of our success depends on our ability to “read the tea leaves.” Intuitively, we should understand the differences among our team and why they show a lack of inspiration in their work. For managers, the “understanding of and willingness to change are key to leading a business as it evolves.”
Data is only as good as the people who analyze it. It cannot make decisions for us or route change within an organization’s goals. Data is what to base a change in your corporate communication strategy on if remote employees are showing a lack of engagement or in sales techniques when numbers are lagging among employees who don’t return calls within a day. Yet, it is the ideas of managers that decide what they need from data, what to change based on data, and how to change it.
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