Uncertainty and Data – when things go wrong blame the data

Have you ever wondered why people research a new business opportunity? Usually it’s to reduce some uncertainty in the idea or market. As with all things the amount of data gathered can vary greatly. Leaner, minimally resource intensive start ups, can get away with little research because the amount of capital that is at risk is generally small. Large resource intensive initiatives, whether they are  a start up or not, generally call for a proportionally greater amount of data. Ideally the data gathered addresses the greatest risk factors to the business success.  (I doubt this is surprising or new to anyone that has any work experience.)

However in larger corporations there is an additional risk factor beyond the business opportunity and that is career risk.  And this is where, shall we say, we get stupid.  In this case the data is over gathered, over consumed and over analyzed to diffuse the blame associated with failure.  It’s so whoever had career exposure to the now failed initiative, can deflect any perceived judgement error on their part to the data. In other words, the data becomes the scapegoat. Not the execution, not the idea, not the strategy and not the stakeholders.  The intolerance of failure, breeds the intolerance of uncertainty, which either stifles the initiative or delays the execution until enough data has been gathered to convince enough stakeholders that this is a safe, incremental business. This way no one has much exposure if it fails and everyone can claim credit if it doesn’t. Companies which foster this type of culture are bound to be disrupted by a smaller, nimbler, and failure friendly rival.

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