Sometimes, the best way to begin a blog is by borrowing a quote. It’s admittedly a conceit that helps contextualize your subsequent thoughts—an artistic device, like a voiceover in a movie.
So that’s what I’m going to do here to begin; use someone else’s words to illustrate my own thoughts.
In this instance, I turn to W. Edwards Deming, whose Wikipedia page explains that he was an American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant. In perfect symmetry, he passed away in 1993 at age 93, and over the course of his nine-plus decades became regarded as having had more impact on Japanese manufacturing and business than any other individual not of Japanese heritage.
He is an ideal muse for this blog about data, which is why I looked to him to give me a boost.
With that in mind, I give you the quote attributed to Deming: “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”
It’s the perfect quote, unless you are an atheist, and its implication is clear: Without data—without hard numbers, you won’t be able to make educated decisions about your business. Because having a leg up on your competition will allow you to step up your bottom line.
Now, not all data is created equal, and having a trusted source is only part of it. Data is only as good as it is timely. For means of demonstrating this point, consider cryptanalysis, or codebreaking. During World War II, the Allied forces used cryptanalysis to decode radio communications that had been enciphered by the Axis powers. Intercepting and decrypting these communications was fundamental to the Allied victory.
Imagine, however, that this data was collected, but, rather than made actionable in real time, was only shared and consulted once a year. The arc of history could have bent in a different direction.
Data only works when it is used.
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