Analytics is everywhere. Take a break from the tools.

OK, last post of the week, I promise.

While I was waiting to cross the street the other day, I noticed something that made me ask the question, “Who in the world thought that was a good idea?”

About 50% of the cars making a right at this intersection were hitting the curb, ruining their pretty wheels, and looking generally silly. For the angle of the turn, the curb was just horribly designed. It extended into the intersection, and for cars to make the turn if a car was coming the other way, they practically had to run over the curb to prevent the front end of their car from sweeping out into oncoming traffic.

I see situations like this all over the place, both in the physical world and on the web. Most of the time, these types of problems seem so obvious, but not to the people who can actually fix the problem or who could have expected / avoided it in the first place. Why is that?

In our industry, we tend to get consumed with the tools we have in our arsenal. We have a flow of data coming in, and like in the Matrix, we tend to watch that flow and look for kinks in the mesh. But there is a lot of data that doesn’t come in table or chart form. A lot of the data that our offering creates exists in a more qualitative sense. It’s there if we’re paying attention to the road ahead, rather than driving by watching the speedometer.

I think a lot of organizations miss out on some pretty high-potential enhancements to their offering, their marketing, to everything they do because they are looking at the dials rather than the road. This particular curb may not cause a “blip,” because maybe there are 9,999 other curbs with no issue. The averages smooth the curve. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a significant problem out there, and maybe the charts and tables aren’t the easiest way to see it.

Some of social media’s greatest untapped potential is this qualitative view. People are out there talking. While we are trying to produce an ROI on twitter, we’re ignoring the “curb checks” that our customers are screaming about. We’re stuck on the dials, rather than the road.

Companies spend hundreds of thousands (and often millions) of dollars trying to make the spreadsheet and chart-creating tools better and better, or to get more of these tools. These tools, sadly, will never, ever substitute for looking at the road. No speedometer, odometer, GPS, or anything will ever be good enough to prevent you from missing something big happening on the other side of your windshield.

Of all the tools in your arsenal, I believe common sense may be the best one. How can you use it — and get your company to use it — more often? Take a look through the windshield today. I bet you’ll see some pretty interesting stuff.

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  1. Amazing how one bad idea, seems to have an effect on so many people, whether it is curbs or business choices.

    Posted July 3, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink
  2. Good post. Great tools, I love it.

    Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink