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Phil Wickenden: Data alone doesn’t bring progress

“We just need more data.” Really? More data is usually available. It takes time or money, but you can always get more data.

However, you’re probably not using all the data you’ve already got. This may sound odd coming from a market researcher, but I think there’s too much research. Too much data. Too much information.

As a side note, the market research industry hasn’t always done itself any favours by peddling decks of charts that go up and down and round and round but don’t actually tell us what we might be able to do to better our businesses… But that’s for another day.

I’m guessing what you really mean is: “I wish I had more certainty.” And that, unfortunately, isn’t available.

Here’s the thing: if something is worth the work you put into it and the change you seek to make, it’s worth dancing with the uncertainty. Reassurance isn’t going to come from more data – that’s a stall. Forward motion is the best way to make things better.

It’s possible to build a car that will never injure the driver, regardless of the severity of the crash. The thing is, it will be so heavy, it won’t move. And it will be so wide, it won’t fit on the roads. We compromise every time we engage with the rules of physics.

And it is possible the world will line up and give you exactly what you want. Except other humans never want exactly what you want, and we build that truth into our expectations about what’s possible. We compromise every time we engage with other human beings.

Phil Wickenden: Marketing means more than telling and selling

Once we acknowledge that all forward motion involves compromise, we can get to the actual question: “How much?”

How much will we compromise with the realities of physics and humanity on our path to making things better? Absolutism is a form of hiding. Certainty is never going to arrive. Perfect is the enemy of good.

The song you’re listening to will end; a surprising news story is going to change the status quo; and you’ll get feedback you didn’t expect.

It’s easy to imagine that things are going to calm down, that there’s a neutral position coming up, and that it’s all going to go back to normal.

But the swirl is normal. There is no ‘ever after’. There’s just the chaos of now and your job is to navigate it as best you can, with the resources you have, accepting there are no guarantees.

Phil Wickenden is an independent consultant

You can follow him on Twitter @PhilWickenden

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