“We’re focused on the data.”

This post originally appeared on September 25th, 2012.

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“We’re focused on the data.”

OK, that’s great. A few follow-up questions, if I may…

Which data, exactly, are you “focused on”?  There’s an awful lot of it.

Where did your data come from? Who supplied it? Is your data accurate?

Why that data instead of this data or the other data? What was the criteria in selecting a certain cache of data to focus on over all of the other available data? Are you certain that the data you’re focused on is actually the data that matters? How do you know this to be the case, what was the process by which you discovered this to be true?

Is it possible that by focusing on this particular data that you may be missing something of elementary importance among a different data set? How do you guard against that possibility? Are you flexible enough to allow new data to mingle with the old data, to bow and sway the constructs already in your line of sight?

Are there qualitative factors that you acknowledge to be important but unquantifiable – and hence not included in the data you focus on? How do you ignore these qualitative factors, especially the glaringly obvious ones? How do you convince yourself, if need be, that the numbers will eventually pick up the colors and the sounds that become brighter and louder to us sentient beings everyday?

When will you override the data? What non-data inputs or variables tell you that the data you’re focusing on is missing something, perhaps something really big?

Or will you follow the data off the cliff based on whichever rules you’ve laid out at the outset?

Is this final risk worth all of the supposed certainty that “focusing on the data” has given you?

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