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Use data as a compass, not as a GPS

In the fast-paced world of product leadership, data has become a compelling tool for decision-making and innovation. While data offers valuable insights, it can also be addictive, blurring judgment for those lacking vision and conviction. In this blog post, we’ll explore the addictive nature of data in product leadership and how to avoid its pitfalls.

Data’s potential for insight entices product leaders, offering valuable user behavior, market trends, and performance metrics. Data-driven decisions can lead to product optimization and increased profitability, which is why many leaders find themselves relying heavily on data to guide their every move.

However, although a powerful ally, relying solely on data can lead to several pitfalls for product leaders:

  • Tunnel Vision: In 2011, Netflix launched Qwikster as a separate brand for DVD rentals based on data indicating declining interest in DVD rentals. However, customers found the separation inconvenient, having to manage two separate accounts and pay separate fees. The backlash led Netflix to abandon Qwikster and reintegrate services under one brand. Constantly seeking validation from data can cause leaders to develop tunnel vision, focusing only on what the numbers say and disregarding intangible factors, such as market dynamics.
  • Ignoring the Human Element: Data might provide insights into user behavior, but it can’t capture the emotions and sentiments of customers. In the 1980s, Coca-Cola changed its formula based on extensive market research and blind taste tests. “New Coke” was preferred in tests, but consumers strongly reacted against it, leading to a quick return to the original “Coca-Cola Classic.” Even Coke overlooked the basic human-centered design principles, affecting user engagement and loyalty.
  • Inertia in Innovation: Relying too much on past data can stifle creativity and innovative thinking. It may lead to the repetition of successful past strategies, hindering the exploration of new, potentially game-changing ideas.
  • Delayed Decision-Making: Over-analyzing data can lead to decision paralysis. Waiting for extensive data sets to validate an idea can result in missed opportunities and slow response to market shifts.

So, how do we avoid the pitfalls of data addiction? We are glad you asked. Mordy Golding, Product Manager at LinkedIn has a great acronym to help you through this predicament:


Deliberate Interpretation: Take the time to interpret the data carefully and thoughtfully.


Avoid Assumptions: Don’t make hasty assumptions solely based on the data; consider the broader context.


Thoughtful Analysis: Analyze the data critically, looking for patterns and connections.


Act with Caution: Be cautious when drawing conclusions from the data and avoid rushing into decisions.

Remember – data is a tool, not a crutch.