This false sense of precision


The more I study analytics, the more disturbed I get. I’ll tell you why. Analytics is fantastic. Data is good. Data based decisions better. However, not knowing how to use the output from data analysis is dangerous. It is probably the most dangerous thing we can do in the field of human resources.

To begin with, this intense focus on getting companies up and ready with the latest data analytics fad is going in all the wrong directions. The basic of any data engine is – ‘Garbage in, garbage out’ and all I see HR doing (well, mostly) is dumping garbage in. It may stem from the fact that we don’t have enough data scientists telling us what makes sense and we don’t couple that with our knowledge about people. As a result, there is a constant struggle in being able to separate signal from noise.

But this isn’t my greatest concern. What I am more troubled about is the false sense of precision this gives us. Data helps us validate existing beliefs or re-analyze in case they don’t match the output. I love how Clayton Christensen* talks about this in reference to him buying the New York Times. Characteristics and behaviors are incomplete indicators. When you base your action on these indicators, there are chances that it paints an incomplete picture.

Don’t get me wrong. I love data. I love data informed decisions. I just think we need to spend more time in learning how to use the data we have before we let it lull us into a false sense of precision.

*Watch the full talk here.


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