“Without data you’re just another person with an opinion” - W. Edwards Deming
I finished Winning with Data recently but I have to admit; it was hard for me to get through this book. It's difficult enough for me to read in general, but I don't usually seek out books about topics like managing data. I'm also not sure exactly who the audience is for this book. Is it a young person venturing into the workforce? A more senior executive trying to learn more about this evolution? Not sure, and I felt like that was also a problem. Nevertheless, I enjoyed what I read well enough since it confirmed how I feel about data accessibility and transparency. I can also see the influence of the author on my workplace (he works with a major investor in our company). It felt like when I took courses in school that I didn't like but I got a lot out of. If it didn't have to take them, I wouldn't have, but I'm glad I did since it exposed me to some new ideas.
The book outlines why data is important, how to manage it, and how to foster a culture that uses it in the right ways. It encourages readers to collect the right data, in the right amounts, and make timely informed decisions at every level of your organization. I feel like this is something higher ed needs to make better use of for strategic student interventions, but I can get why they'd be hesitant. Student data is sensitive, but we owe it to our students to provide the best service we can. I know some institutions are moving in this direction.
Using data really can transform every decision we make in an organization. It's not just sales or marketing. It can come into recruitment which I think is a huge epiphany for higher ed specifically since in my experience, it is something we struggle with greatly. The book provides a specific example from Google and how they run their processes to help continuously improve it over time:
“Google takes metrics one step further than most companies. It collects data at every step of the interviewing process to provide interviewers feedback on their candidate judgement.
“‘Every interviewer sees a record of the interview scores they gave given i the past and whether those people were hired or not. This lets the interviewer know if they are correctly assessing potential Googlers, nudging them to look back at their prior notes and learn from what they spotted or missed.’"
We could all use this sort of thinking to make sure we're bringing in the right people and helping our recruiters and hiring teams do their best with what we are putting upon them. Overall, it is a way of thinking that we need to implement and move on from making decisions based on anecdotal evidence and gut reactions. This quote is what I'd like to end on that captures this feeling:
“…data encourages experimentation and surprises. Surprises foster new ways of thinking. They challenge the establishment. When dogged with opinions or knee-jerk answers of ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ we all can feel disenfranchised. Data pushes us to experiment.”