There are a lot of books that will change how you think and how you approach work and projects. They provide a strategy playbook for employee retention strategies, new product launches, marketing plans, and even how to find a job.
Recently, one luminary of the tech sector has touted a book made by Hans Rosling (with his son Ola Rosling and daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund) titled Factfulness. It launched in 2018, but Bill Gates has mentioned it several times. He’s one to know. The now famous philanthropist has always been clear about his love for all things data — dating back to the first version of MS-DOS. Gates was “data-driven” before such a concept even existed in business circles.
Factfulness. is a groundbreaking book. The book potrays the idea that data, 'a real, verifiable facts collected over time', should drive our decisions.
It addresses colossal problems of our age, such as world hunger and the poverty line, but flips these models on their heads. Rosling, who died of pancreatic cancer before the book debuted, makes some surprising revelations about our preconceived notions, including the widely held view that hunger problems are getting worse and people are getting poorer and poorer all over the world.
Armed with great data, we can all make a lot better decisions. For someone taking on a new marketing role and trying to analyze the field and understand trends, it’s tempting to dive right in and try new things. That is the classic, but also rather bone-headed definition of being an entrepreneur, someone who tries new things. It is called “risk-taking” and “thinking outside of the box,” but it’s also completely wrong. If you want to make informed decisions, understand marketing trends, build a product, or grow the revenue at any company, it’s only best to understand first what you are dealing with.
For that new marketing role, it might mean analyzing your target market and understanding the demographics. Who are the potential customers and what motivates them? Rather than merely sitting in a focus group and asking questions (even if that is important to the process), it’s far better to collect data about prospects and look at the hard numbers.
The reason (which becomes very clear in the book Factfulness) is that the data can surprise you. You might be wrong. You might not know your target demographic is not using social media anymore to find out about your products. You might realize that the job you thought you wanted doesn’t actually pay that well anymore and is not exactly rising in the charts as far as a job employer really needs. It’s also very surprising that people don’t take the time to do the research and look at the numbers when they start looking for a job. Even for an important decision such as relocating or changing careers, it’s very much easy to just start the search. It’s much harder to first look at the data, and figure out the best strategy and approach.
Data changes the way we look at the world. It definitely has changed how Bill Gates approaches his philanthropic work, and it can also change how you approach business decisions.
A challenge for you: What if you approached every big decision at work, every new project, every new job search, and almost every business endeavor by first looking at the data and the trends first? What if you analyzed the field, collected the information you needed, parsed it out, and looked at the subject from all angles first? It could be very stressfull or annoying spending hours adding data to a spreadsheet, but the truth of the matter is that, every good decision starts that way.
The challenge here is to look before you leap. And in this case, the “look” means doing the hard work of collecting data first and crunching the numbers. You might be surprised by what you find out.