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6 Bad Data Habits That Might Be Holding You Back

If you're guilty of these habits, you're not making the most of your data.
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It's not easy being data-driven. Often there's internal resistance to making data-driven changes, especially if data that runs counter to gut feelings or "the way things have always been done."

"Many [managers] are threatened by data and work, perhaps subconsciously, to subvert its penetration into the culture," writes Thomas C. Redman, the Data Doc and President of Navesink Consulting Group, in a recent post for Harvard Business Review

Such managers are guilty of certain bad habits, claims Redman. Want to know if you are one of them? Well, ask yourself the following questions: 

Do you ... 

Prefer intuition over the data? Managers who tend to go with their "gut" are often skeptical of anything new. 

And while they might genuinely care about the company and people, they "go to great lengths to ignore, downplay, or subvert any evidence that suggests a better way. ... The near-certain results are processes, operations, and teams that are increasingly out-of-date," says Redman. 

Rig the system? Some managers build a case for their decision after they've made the decision. This often involves ignoring other evidence along the way, says Redman.

Second-guess others? "The true spirit of second-guessing involves withholding potentially useful information, then pouncing the minute a decision goes wrong," says Redman. "Withholding information breeds mistrust and pouncing leads many to make more conservative and easily-defended, but sub-optimal, decisions." 

Have analysis-paralysis? Managers should not delay until they can make the perfect decision. "It's easy for the paralyzed to argue that they are data-driven -- after all, they are seeking more data!" says Redman. However, "delay too long and the competitor may introduce that new product line first; a great candidate may go elsewhere; and an investor may withdraw its offer."

Employ groupthink? If everyone in the office thinks the same way, it's easy to ignore data that points in a new direction, says Redman. If this sounds like your office, it might be a time to surround yourself with a more varied team. 

Have arrogance about data quality? Some managers claim that "little data they do use is of high-quality, even though they have no facts to back it up," says Redman. Such excuses and "misconceptions about data make it easier to fall into all other bad habits."

Breaking bad habits isn't easy and you won't be able to break all of them at once, says Redman. 

"[I]f you're going to pick one to start, stop second-guessing others. More specifically, stop withholding and start sharing potentially useful information every chance you get," he recommends. "Doing so pays great dividends in the form of increased trust, better teamwork, and others sharing with you."

Last updated: Aug 15, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC | Staff Writer

Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.




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