“Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.”
– W. Edwards Deming
At The Melior Group, we live and die by that quote. It is how we sell our services: we believe, deep in our bones, that information/data can help move an organization toward where it wants to go.
The longer I work in marketing research, the more that quote has taken on another meaning. I have learned that our clients’ opinions, which are usually based in anecdotal evidence and intuition, are also often correct and borne out in data. Upon delivery of our findings, we usually hear some version of the following: “this information doesn’t surprise me.”
When I first started out in this business, my face would fall when a client would say that. I thought a statement like that was a criticism, a veiled message that the client did not value what we had done and felt they hadn’t gotten their money’s worth. Today, however, I have a different perspective. Head nods and lack of surprise at our findings are comforting signs that we did our job right. I feel unsettled when a client says, “this is news to me…I am completely surprised by what you have found.”
My change of heart starts with confidence in my clients. If they are doing their jobs right, then they have a sense of what is going on with their customers, their employees, their brand, etc. They work there, after all.
So have I just talked The Melior Group out of business with my assertion that our clients already know what will be revealed in the data that we gather? Absolutely not. If data collection is done well (and this, we know, is critical), data provides validation and proof… it is defendable. It is the bulwark of evidence that organizations need to move forward.
Just because “without data you’re just another person with an opinion,” doesn’t mean that your opinion isn’t right.