Rant – A Result is Not the Same as the Value

Just to make something clear, you will get a result from any action you take. Some good, some bad, some are neutral, but in all cases, there is a result. That result comes from not only what you do, but the context of the environment where you made it. Just slapping yourself on the back for the result you get misses the entire point. How is doing what you did, how is that any better then any other action you could have taken? If you don’t know this, then you have no clue the action value of what you chose to do. You could have just chosen the second worst of the 1000 different options you have in front of you, but because you ignore the context, you are happy, you pat yourself on the back and you tell people all about how great you are.

The goal is not to get a result, it is to become more efficient, so that you get more for what you are spending, or the same for less. Any action that doesn’t add efficiency is not adding value for your company.

History has shown that it is always the more efficient company that succeeds. That means you need two piece of information for any action: The “value” of the action (how much better it is then other alternatives) and the cost of that action. To do that, you have to be able to leverage two key things: Causal information (value) and discipline (cost) to measure the value of relative actions, and the cost to achieve them.

Correlative data, by itself, can NEVER tell you this, since it can only tell you a single rate of action of what happened in the past. It can only tell you what did happen, not what could happen, or the value of those actions. You have people who click on a link that see on average 3 pages per visit? Cool, but what about if they clicked on something else? or if that wasn’t even a possible action for them? What would they have done? would they have done more or less? Would they have seen 5 pages? 2? What about the cost to get them to see 5 pages? What about the cost to redesign that page, or the relative cost of impacting that segment versus another? Correlative data only tells you the rate of action, it is impossible for correlative data to tell you the value of those actions, since that is a comparative analysis. That difference is the only thing that matters, and you simply can’t answer it with correlative data alone…

So why then do we hear nothing but the value of this correlative data? Why do we pretend it tells us more then it does? Why do we pretend it informs decisions that it doesn’t? Why do we build fancy dashboards, or initiatives, or entire strategies on missing this fundamental point about the data you are using? It isn’t the data, it has always told you exactly the same thing, the problem is that we pretend we get so much more from it then we really do.

You can’t rely on passive action, you can’t be passive in data acquisition or you actions of that data. Passive data is nice to have, but is not enough. You have to create a cycle of using causal information to inform correlative information, not the other way around if you want real value.

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