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PRODUCT.|PHILOSOPHY.|LIFE.

Data gets us the Kardashians



Data also gets us House of Cards, but that has found a way to lose its plot too (disclaimer: I'm yet to watch the last three episodes of season four).

I have been working in the field of data (big data, if you may), for quite some time now and it is my day job to obsess over data and figure out how it can help make all of the products we offer better. Which is definitely an exciting thing to be doing.

If you ask anyone in the startup industry what the difference between a startup and an established organization is, they will tell you something like agility or adaptability. And yet, I have seen many founders and Product Managers not be adaptable at all when it comes to the utility of data. I have seen data-driven as a non-negotiable for making important decisions. A popular quote by Jim Barksdale sums this up well:
"If we have data, let's look at data. If all we have are opinions, let's go with mine."
 The reason data-driven is treated as a non-negotiable is because of precisely this view. The view that the alternative to data is opinion. Sure, when the alternative to data is opinion, then hands down, going with data is better than going with opinion. And several decisions fall in this category. Every day, as CEOs, as Product Managers, as Engineers and as designers, we have to make decisions on selecting one or the other option, on selecting what tasks to prioritise, on deciding whether to make a certain change or not, on how to communicate with users, and data is extremely effective in helping make the right decisions in these scenarios.

But, perhaps not as often, we face scenarios where we have to decide what feature to build, what product to put our weight behind, what problem to solve first. And in these scenarios, going with data is, hands down, the second best alternative. And here is where we need to understand that the only alternative to being data-driven is to go with someone's opinion.

There is another alternative.

And that is one of commitment. A commitment to make a change, to make a difference, trumps data-driven decision making, because these are decisions that need to hold in the long-term. These are decisions that we need to fiercely stand by through thick and thin. These are outcomes that we need to be truly passionate about achieving. Making such decisions based on data will only lead you down a path to failure.

Data helps evaluate options, decide amongst alternatives, and helps determine what is good in the short term.

But to make an impact in the long term, what's needed more is commitment. 

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