Leverage data to improve business conversations
The past 18 months have marked a sea change in the way we work and communicate with our colleagues. From instant messaging to video conferencing, technology has made business leaders and employees more connected than ever. However, as we communicate more, we may not communicate as effectively if we don’t have the data insights to inform our conversations.
The ability to make data-driven decisions depends on mastery of the data, access to information and available software tools. Without these key factors, there is a question mark about the quality of business conversations and how informed decision making at the top really is.
According to a recent study commissioned by Tableau, nearly 90% of executives believe a quality business conversation should have clear goals, be honest and transparent, and lead to a result. A further 81% also believed that the availability of reliable data is essential for an effective business conversation.
More than half said the ability to understand information from data is as important as knowledge of the industry (54%). This is not surprising after a recent UK government report found that 48% of companies are hiring for data-related roles.
The pandemic has transformed the way we talk about business. On the relational side, 64% of executives believe that the opportunities for informal conversations, ie “cooler” moments, have been significantly impacted. This has undoubtedly affected the development of positive relationships and trust within the teams.
On a more technical note, Tableau’s research, conducted by YouGov, found that half of senior executives believe the pandemic has revealed information gaps between teams. A lack of information or data on a topic and the frustration around long meetings that do not lead to a solution are other challenges.
These gaps are widening due to both the physical divide people have experienced since the start of the pandemic and the information divide caused by fragmented technology systems, resulting in siled data in an organization. It is through access to real, unbiased, and comprehensive data sets that business leaders can have better conversations and make better decisions.
Place data at the heart of corporate culture
Data is essential for processing facts and building trust. Over 75% of business leaders surveyed by YouGov agreed that data is important because it reduces uncertainty and promotes accuracy.
Business conversations without empirical data risk being swayed by information that supports a specific argument. This is called confirmation bias, and although information about the data can still be used selectively in the conversation, if everyone has access to the same data, it is much more difficult to distort the information. truth.
While executives see the value of data in business conversations, very few have a well-established data culture in place, with just 19% saying everyone in their business uses data. in decision making. In addition, one in ten people think that data analysis is not used at all in their business.
According to a third of executives (34%).
The country’s growing data skills gap has been reflected in other research, with the government identifying that nearly half of UK companies struggle to recruit people with data skills.
It is a challenge that the government and the private sector must meet. Tableau, for example, just announced its commitment to empowering 10 million data learners over the next five years.
An additional barrier for a third of respondents was that there was “too much” data. This may indicate that companies simply don’t have the skills or digital tools to use data analytics and effective visualization to gain insight. This, combined with the lack of information sharing, presents a real problem. How are leaders supposed to be able to make decisions without the data tools or skills to provide a complete and accurate picture of the business? Without it, organizations lack a shared vision, trust and mutual alignment on the part of stakeholders that will contribute to their success.
Prepare for the future
Human decision making is ultimately based on reason. Whatever decision is made, humans look for strict reasons to justify their choice. At least some of them need to be data-driven and weighted appropriately according to their importance, to keep business conversations focused.
However, this should not come at the expense of environmental, social and governance values, and the well-being of all stakeholders, especially marginalized groups. Data can greatly help businesses grow, innovate and compete, but we must never lose sight of human values.
Tableau’s study shows that business leaders know what to do, but they’re not doing it yet. Investing in tools and employee training is an important step, but their bosses need to lead by example.
If businesses are to succeed in this information-hungry world, a true data culture must start at the top.
Ivo Vlaev is Professor of Behavioral Sciences at Warwick Business School. He was previously a researcher at University College London and a lecturer in behavioral science at Imperial College London.