So I’ve been working in Analytics for a while now…
Now in our Market Research and Analytics industry, I think there are two types of analysts – those with and without a stats degree; but it hardly matters as both are equally confused on the subject. I used to represent the comfortable majority who stayed as far away from stats as possible all this while but the annual goal setting carnival this year has forced me to bring stats in my life starting this year. So my goal for this year to learn stats and to “educate and enlighten my client of the benefits of stats in our engagement”. But the problem is – who’s going to educate and enlighten me of the benefits of stats? If any, that is. And I realize that my paralyzing fear of stats is not really helping; in fact, my fear of statistics always ranked high in my list of fears – way higher than my fear of heights and somewhere near my fear of clowns. And I’m also told that neither counseling, medication nor exorcism can cure one of one’s fear of statistics.
So what does the God Particle have to do with data? Well nothing actually. But at the other end of the same spectrum is the Man Particle and that has everything to do with data. If the God particle represents all the best things that can happen in life, the Man particle represents the exact opposite - and the only thing suspect about data are the humans working on it. Data is actually contaminated all the time by the Man particle – and stats, which is defined as “whatever is being done to data - collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of it”, in fact, recognizes the human factor in data; they even have a sophisticated word to call it – they call it ‘non sampling error’! But don’t let it fool you – it basically means ‘the unbelievable blunders that only we humans are capable of.
- For my summer internship, I was working with a research agency that was at the time working for a global leader in optical lenses. This client had just entered India and had commissioned our agency to do a market sizing study to find out the overall optical market in India, its different segments and the various players in each of the segments. After two months of data collection, the senior director of our agency was to present the agency’s findings to the India CEO of the optical company, who had specially flown down for this presentation. The director knew that findings were not too favorable for the optical company as the data showed that the company was always a distant No 3 or 4 in all the major segments in the optical market of India. To infuse a sense of cheer and to start on a bright note, the director identified a segment where the data showed the client company to be the market leader. The director cheerfully started the presentation by highlighting that “You should be pleased to know that our data says that your company is number 1 in the XYZ segment.” The room went quiet and the CEO blinked a few times amidst the pin drop silence in the room. The CEO then humbly told the director that they do not operate in that particular segment and never had any products there.
- Company A had to come up with a strategic response to a particular situation and was in a dilemma over deciding between two opposing courses of action. So it commissioned an agency to come up with the right decision. Now, one way of creating a strong impression on clients is to impress him with things that he does not know – so the researcher waxed eloquent about the power of statistics and did a hypothesis testing with the company’s data. Unfortunately, the researcher fumbled on setting the null and alternate hypotheses and unknowingly suggested the wrong course of action to the company. Later somebody else found the error but it was already too late as the company had invested heavily in the recommended action point. The irony however is not that the researcher got it completely wrong; the irony is that the company met great success by following that path.
- This happened to my friend’s market research agency. Both the top two competing firms in the ABC category were being serviced by two separate teams from this same agency. Both teams provide their respective clients with data and analyses on a periodic basis and this data is used by the client for strategy, competitor intelligence and study of market dynamics. Needless to say, contractual obligations did not permit these two agency teams to interact with each other in any ways whatsoever and hence were housed within the same agency on different floors. However, the two teams shared the same courier dispatch team of the agency. For the much awaited annual data analyses, the courier guy sent the dvd file of one company to its competitor and vice versa.
So as you can see, data in its purest form is like God – a source of unlimited knowledge and powerful information. But when humans intervene, well…..
For everything and everyone else, I keep a personal pet policy.
P.S – This post is a work of fiction - I actually like beef.
P.P.S – By using the term ‘Man’, I refer to both genders – I mean no disrespect to the ladies; I know that whatever blunders men can make, women can probably do it better.