Data Driven vs. Data Guided


By: Ruben Terrazas, Copy Editor/Translator

To data or not to data? That shouldn’t be the question. Instead, the question should be how to use said data?

The general consensus in all industries is that data is vital to planning, operations, and delivery. And while I completely agree with all of the above, I also think we should be careful not to let data drive every single decision and forget about things like instinct, vision and experience.

Moving from the education to the advertising field, I noticed a similar importance given to data use in achieving desired goals and results.

In education, past test performance is combined, averaged, dissected and disaggregated to then plan future instruction and predict upcoming results. While all this sounds like a great idea and good practice, what it really creates is an oversimplification of individuals. Because in the past some kid was weaker in, say, fractions or summary, they are placed in small groups and bombarded with practice after practice focusing only on those skills. And what of the rest of the skills, you ask? The ones already “mastered”? Well, they are quietly shelved and used only in other focus groups or merely superficially when the curriculum calls for them.

The result is very specific but also very scattered education. Little kids are becoming specialists at a time when they should be generalists. My point is that education has let itself be data-driven instead of data-supported or data-guided.

Education and advertising are very different fields, but I assume that for every A-student who gets a C on a test the day the family pet died there’s a consumer whose buying choices aren’t solely guided by what some points on a graph say.

“A statistic or data point is a tiny speck floating in a sea of ever-changing context,” wrote Dan Zambonini in The Joyless World of Data Driven Startups. Notice the “joyless” part included in Zambonini’s essay title. I lived it in education.

In advertising we need to make sure to use our instinct, creativity, vision and experience alongside data and research to successfully navigate the shifting waves of context…and make it a merry voyage.