It's hard to find consensus in the business world. There are many different strategies, philosophies and tactics. I would have bet, though, that all executives use data to make business decisions.
And I'd be wrong.
I cropped this infographic from ReadWrite.com:
That is, 16 percent of executives do not use data to make better business decisions. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "Who are these people?"
I mean, I can somewhat understand entry-level and even mid-level employees ignoring data. Especially at large companies, they may not be able to move the needle very much. But executives? What are these people thinking?
I'll try to tread carefully here so I don't offend anyone, but I'd bet that those one in six are near retirement. These old school folks "run their unit the way they run their unit," to paraphrase Jack Nicholson's Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men. They don't need no stinkin' data. Never have. Never will.
The Old Guard
I can't help but think that these folks represent the diminishing old guard. A friend of mine in Las Vegas is only 25 years old and frequently goes to Google Analytics for vital insights. It's hard for me to imagine her ignoring data as she ascends the corporate ladder. In fact, she'll go further faster precisely because she speaks and thinks in terms of data.
As I look into my crystal ball for 2013 and beyond, I suspect that fewer and fewer of these executives will survive. After all, we're notoriously bad at making decisions. Ask Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow. What makes these one in six so special that they don't need data? What do they know that we don't? What are they taking? And where can I get some?
I can only imagine consulting at an organization run by a dataphobe. Something tells me that I wouldn't last too long. I'm not saying that data needs to drive every business decision, but how can an executive routinely ignore it?
Seriously. I'm curious. What say you?