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Buzzwords & Bullsh!t: Data Driven…Anything


“Data-driven ______”. Fill in the blank with just about anything relevant to today’s societal events and chances are a Google search will turn up at least a few thousand examples of whatever it is you typed in. Much like other current business buzzwords (“big data”, anyone?), I see one phrase used far more often than necessary, and far too frequently in a way which is more or less redundant. “Data-driven analytics” and “data-driven decision-making” are two terms which immediately come to mind. The concept of using empirical information to make decisions is not brand new, though in present-day society everybody seems to think they know something the next person doesn’t. It seems to be standard operating procedure for organizations to tout their respective “cutting edge data-driven whatever” as the next big innovation to industry.

Further, I have often come across a few articles proposing that one can succeed in today’s world by “knowing your product,” “gaining your customers trust,”  and “being humble about and learning from business mistakes.” What can one know about their product and its respective market without data? Effectively attempting to market a product or service with zero data reference (like pricing and sales strategy) seems like a pretty great way to fail.

How do you obtain, maintain, and increase customer trust when you make business decisions from thin air? Just kidding, that’s cleared up with the last example point of “being humble” about mistakes (and learning from them).  I am not necessarily a businessman by trade, but I have learned a thing or two from family businesses, various employers, and trading stocks. I know that a blatant disregard and/or lack of acknowledgement for data in today’s society is a pretty solid recipe for a skepticism of a balance sheet.

So if “data-driven analytics” is littering your PR like you’re the first caveman to “invent” fire, I ask you this: what did you use for analytics previously? In present times, what does one analyze if not data? Apply the same argument to “data-driven decision-making”- another ridiculous usage of the term. Again, if your decision-making is not based on data, on what is it based? Do you roll out Tom Smykowski’s “jump-to-conclusions mat” to make big decisions (Office Space 1999 20th Century Fox)? Tell me, do these state-of-the-art techniques use “big data” from the “cloud” as well? I bet so. Give yourself an extra gold star this week and hang that press release on the office refrigerator right next to your winning Publisher’s Clearing House winning letter; you earned it!

Author Evan Bumann

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