Do you know any runners, cyclists or triathletes? If you do, you’ve probably had to listen to them geek out about some new watch, power meter, or some other type of new gadget or technology that is going to help them become an Olympian. It’s something inherent in the traits that enable them to be a runner/cyclist/triathlete that causes a love for numbers and data. They want to know how far they went, how fast, how hard, but sometimes, somewhere in all those numbers, we lose an intangible piece of the data set: feel.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers, even consumed by them. When I try to explain Google Analytics to a client for the first time, you see their eyes glaze over, followed quickly by a yawn. Data is critical in our business because it helps determine our next move; it drives our content strategy, our ad campaigns, even what services we look to incorporate into our portfolio. But as we’ve become so dependent on this data, and allow it to dictate our actions, we forget to follow our instincts. Sometimes we need to test theories, and it’s okay to be wrong.
It’s usually easy to pick out someone who just started running versus someone who’s been doing it for a while. I notice folks from “my generation” tend to eschew technology like GPS watches, while newer runners swarm to it. I have a friend who followed a particular marathon training plan. It outlined every day of training for the 6 months leading up to the marathon, down to the paces that he should be running on each run to achieve his goal marathon. Along the way he started to have a couple of nagging injuries, but never deterred from the plan. He ended up finally breaking down to the point where he couldn’t run, and ultimately wasn’t able to race the marathon.
If he’d followed his instinct, perhaps the situation could have been avoided – or at least mitigated. He could have adapted and revised his goal and his plan to reach it.
Every day I rely heavily on Google properties like Analytics, Webmaster Tools and AdWords. I pore over data, squinting at interminable rows of numbers and fields of keywords. It’s easy to get lost in the rabbit hole. This information is valuable and important, but the sheer quantity can be overwhelming. This is when you need to close your eyes and feel the Force (obligatory Star Wars reference).
A great mistake is not educating oneself enough to know what the numbers mean. What’s a good click-through rate? How many visitors should I have each month? What’s a reasonable bounce rate? We have to look at more information and understand historical data to draw any conclusions.
I’m certainly not advocating going rogue and making blind decisions, but if you’re good at what you do and have faith in your team, then it’s good to try things out. If we all follow the same set of numbers and benchmark data, then why should we expect different results?
These days I’ve found harmony in a reasonable combination of quantitative and qualitative data, both at work and in my run training Some of the best and most creative ideas I’ve ever heard have come from spit-balling at lunch. Write everything down, and then use data to support them.