Data analysis – are you being oversold on your analytics?

With many new businesses being borne out of ‘big data’, the term ‘data insights’ is being flung around left right and centre, and organisations are paying big dollars to analytics companies that promise rousing discoveries about their consumers. But can true consumer insights be found in data analysis alone?
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As a group whose previous experience varies from brand management for Reebok to working on Wallstreet, you can imagine our opinions sometimes mix like oil in water.

Debates about ‘Can true consumer insights be found in data analysis alone?’ are firing around the db office at the moment.

With many new businesses being borne out of big data, the term ‘data insights‘ is being flung around left right and centre. Organisations are paying big dollars to analytics companies that promise to rouse amazing discoveries about their consumers.

I’m also reading a book at the moment which is literally blowing. my. mind.

(This is connected. Really.)

The Confidence Code‘ by Katty Klay and Claire Shipman, looks at how confidence is developed and the ‘science and art’ of self assurance.

What has this got to do with analytics?

Scientists and psychologists have long been in debate over nature versus nurture in their quest to figure out where our personalities come from.  And the debate battled for so long because, in the end, both sides were kinda right.  Our personalities are moulded by both, nature and nurture; science and art.

Let me explain a little.

The science: did you know that 25% of our personality is genetic?

Yup, you read it right.

How you behave is inherited from your forefathers and foremothers, science can account for 25%-50% of your personality.

Personality traits like agreeability, resilience, optimism and propensity to depression and anxiety are affected by how certain chemicals are absorbed and balanced in your brain. And you can test this. You can literally send a spit swab to a company in America and for $99 you can find out what genes you’ve been lumped with.

Blowing. My. Mind.

The art: good parenting and brain plasticity.

Before you start thinking of all the ways in which your parents fouled your genes, think about this.

Nurture – the way in which you were raised – makes up the other 50% of your personality. So if you were lucky enough to have parents that were very intuitive and attentive to you, then the way that you learnt to manage those personality traits would be improved.

Plus, if that’s not enough, ‘brain plasticity’ means that even if you’ve been lumped with really crappy genetics and upbringing, you still have the ability to rewire how your brain works.

Which is where I come back to the analytics and insights debate.

Is it possible we can draw true insights from concrete facts (analytics) alone?  Or can insights only truly come from intuition and a deep understanding of consumer behaviour?

It’s both.

Analytics can help to unveil the unexpected, the surprising and the interesting. But it’s complicated. You can’t quite push a button for incredible insights just yet.

Intuition helps us put together the hypothesis about what that data might actually mean.

And together they work in a ‘create and break’ cycle until (if you’re lucky) a revelation about what your consumers think, feel and do rises to the surface.

What happens from there is a whole other story.

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