7.01.2015

Listen to Your Gut But Check Your Assumptions and the Data

Asha SaxenaBy Asha Saxena, entrepreneur.com, President and CEO of Future Technologies
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Even as a self-professed data nerd, I still find myself itching to go with my gut when I’m faced with a key decision. It’s only natural. We humans sometimes struggle to set aside our fragile pride
and accept that another source of information might trump our intuition.
In business, it pays to put aside pride. Making a decision that you know is backed by data gives you confidence in what you’re doing, takes away the pressure of leading your team into the unknown and creates a culture of trust between you and your employees, customers and stakeholders.
People often think they’re safe from assumptions when they’re dealing with data. But assumptions have a funny way of weaving their way into every aspect of your business. They can gradually steer you in the wrong direction but you can you regulate your assumptions to strike the perfect balance between intuition and data. The first step is to be aware of your assumptions so you can judge when they’re misguided or just plain wrong.
Here are four common assumptions in business and ways to combat them:
1. Your employees are fulfilled.
The areas where business leaders most commonly allow their assumptions to take over involve the human elements of business.
It’s easier to assume that your employees are feeling happy and fulfilled than to regularly evaluate how satisfied they actually are. But without a healthy dose of data, all these factors can change overnight. When you find yourself in one of these human areas, take special care to look at data before you let your assumptions do the talking.
2. Everyone wants to work for your company.
You need to believe in the desirability of your company, but you can’t simply assume that your work culture is second to none. If you’re struggling to fill roles and have no idea why, check the data. Use it to unveil the biggest turnoffs potential employees see when they interview at your company so you can refine your recruitment process.
3. All potential customers need your expertise.
You want to believe that you’re the best fit for your target customers’ pain points and that customers who wanted your last product will want your newest one, but use data to track customer satisfaction and pay attention if it says otherwise. Ignoring facts will prevent you from finding new revenue streams and innovating.
4. Regional profiles are always true.
You’re not the only one who has trouble sorting assumptions from facts. Your industry -- and everyone within it -- operates on assumptions to a certain extent. Much of the information you receive from external sources is based on assumptions.
Be aware of others’ assumptions, just as you’re aware of your own. If there’s a trend in launching businesses in a certain city on the East Coast, don’t automatically assume that the location is going to be right for your business. Do your research. Data can help you discover pockets of opportunity you were unaware of.
Accept that data might know more about your business than you do or that it can lead you to understanding your audience’s desires better. Matching human intuition with the data patterns to back it up will make for more confident decisions. In fact, a recent study evaluating the leadership behavior of 50,000 business leaders found that those perceived as having poor decision-making skills were deemed weak at fact-checking, confirming assumptions and gathering additional information.
You want to be a good decision maker for your team, right? Hunt and gather all the information you can to inform the decisions you make. The more you know, the better your decisions will be. That is key to pushing your startup from shaky success to a definite winning streak.

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