Data is Nothing Without Instinct
We’re drowning in a sea of data. Think about how much data you encounter on a daily basis: number of follows and likes, directionality of the stock market, the warming climate, the rate of inflation. There’s so much data - and how did we ever live in a world before big data?
In a 2019 Medium piece Data-Driven Design is Killing Our Instincts, Benek Lifeski writes that “Instinct is recognizing pitfalls before they manifest into problems, recognizing winning solutions without having to explore and test endless options.” To Lifeski, the gulf of ones-and-zeros is causing us to aspirate on the notion that data itself has innate value. But it doesn’t.
Data requires a storyteller, someone who brings insight to what the data is saying.
Think about it, we live in an era where seemingly positive trends have contraindications: for instance, the U.S. household savings rate is at an all-time high. But that’s due to the fact that nobody has left their homes for a year, and the ongoing stimulus isn’t meeting the needs of most Americans out of work due to the pandemic. Insights aren’t formed in isolation, they’re informed by experience, and the most learned of us know that failure is the greatest teacher.
Lifeski goes on: “[Instinct is] seeing balance, observing inconsistencies, and honing your design eye. It’s having good aesthetic taste, but knowing how to adapt your style on a whim.” Balance is sorely needed in eCom. Not a week goes by where I don’t have a conversation about how to “move the needle” — but which needle? There are so many! And much of the investments we make into improving one area can harm another. This, then, is the essence of balance. Maintaining balance requires instinct. Data can only inform us whether our instincts were right.
Data is nothing without instinct**. My fear is, in this era of playbooks and platforms and copycats, that our instincts are being dulled. We’re losing the ability to think for ourselves, to chart our own path, to challenge the “best practices.”
For more on instincts, especially those of the new-mommy variety, Ingridy Cordy had a lot to say about how being in DTC informs the way she makes decisions as a mom-to-be in the newest episode of the podcast, “Ecom for New Moms.” Listen over here.
** shout out to the brilliant design minds at Rightpoint who coined this phrase, and to Anamika Lasser, Chief Brand Officer at Rightpoint, who introduced it to me.
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