Rich Beatty published a nice article, Data Guides, But the Gut Decides, on how CMOs need to balance art and science in their decision making. The rise of social media is making conversations in the marketplace much more transparent. The corresponding rise of big data has got a lot of senior executives excited about getting access to what their customers are saying. But this data alone is not enough.
Rich found after in-depth interviews with more than 50 CMOs, “that CMOs who have successfully evolved their role in the organization have done so not through data and analytics alone, but by blending the art and science of marketing.” Rich concludes that “data is a commodity that can be had for a price, but art cannot be replicated. Science and art are important alone, but combined, they are the foundation and the accelerant for growth.” I certainly agree.
As a research scientist I was always taught to keep the results section of a research report separate from the conclusions section. This way readers could come to their own conclusions about the data. Also, it required the scientists to think about the implications of the findings. The same holds for the use of data in business. Thought is still required.
In North America in particular, there is an obsession with numbers. Numbers are good but they have their place. In an analogous way some people blindly rely on Robert Parker’s numbering system to tell them if a wine is good. However, as Adam Gopnik in the September 6, 2004 issue of the New Yorker, “(Parker) was uncannily successful because (he was an) apostle of a radical American empiricism – an insistence that facts and numbers could show you what was really going on, against everything tradition told you…The debate is not about whether the numbers are right but whether it is right to have numbers.”
In a similar perspective, Nick Carr quotes Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, in his Atlantic article,Is Google Making Us Stupid?, that it is “a company that’s founded around the science of measurement,” and it is striving to “systematize everything” it does. Carr adds that what Fred Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind. I would add: and what Robert Parker did for wine. Nick goes on to write, “in Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed.”
Personally, I think a little ambiguity and complexity is good. This is where creativity creeps in. Science does have its place and I was a scientist myself in a past life. Now I am a painter, as well as a writer. Both give you a perspective. I am glad to see Rich Beatty’s research supporting the need for a balance in facts and thought.