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Data & The Science of Leadership

This past March, Jim and I had the great experience of  attending SXSW interactive. Over the coming months we’ll be sharing some key take-aways and lessons we learned here on the wedu blog. This installment is all about data & the science of leadership. static1.squarespace
Dan Chuparkoff of Civis Analytics shows us that leadership is a skill driven by obtaining knowledge through data.  If you don’t have the data to make a decision, you are just guessing.
The essence of this conversation with Dan was this:  squeaky wheel meetings are for suckers.  To make the best product we should be doing A/B testing.  In his prior experiences most of his teammates sat in rooms arguing about ideas and who had the best one.  Then it came apparent that the only decisions that were not gambles were those made using data.

Make Data-Driven Decisions, Don’t Just Guess

Civis does people science based on how to reach people and make better decisions reaching them. They all know one particular thing.  Their (and our) opinions are interesting but they’re mostly irrelevant. Product or platform decision making at Civis is done through performing a series of tests, and not just A/B tests.  We’re talking A/B/C/D/E/F/G tests.  Messages, backgrounds, colors, photos.  The collection of this data will show the best and most-preferred patterns that give you the best product. We should A/B test internally first.  Use your team as an asset – they’ll be your first line of defense.  When doing so give them small tasks or platforms and document internal history.

Good Tools for Testing

  • Optimizely
  • Google Adwords
    • Used to determine content for home page of Civis website.
    • They even have one account for exploratory testing of:
      • Potential product names
      • Impressions and clicks on certain ad units
      • Attention getting ad units
  • Twitter Analytics
    • At SXSW most people were interested in data, jobs, and data jobs.
  • Intercom
  • Wall Polling
    • Whole organization is helping to make a decision.  You simply do this by posting a question on a wall and having people answer by writing/posting/taping/sketching.
  • Bracket Ranking
    • We can typically remember or recall five things on a list before our brains get distracted.  Bracket Ranking allows us to distill things down to specific questions through choices all the way down to a decision point.

What if you don’t have statically significant data?

Get some data.  Even the smallest data sample is still a significant number for applying data to a decision.

How Should We Use It?

Encourage each team to show the data that drives their decisions.  It’ll sound like, “How did you get to that decision?”.  
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