Tag Archives | data

Will Moneyball Analytics Kill Loyalty and Leadership?

On the heels of Om Malik’s recent post on the dangers of “soulless” data, I read this post from HBR. The answer to the post’s title is “Yes, if we allow the quantifiable to assume sole supremacy over all decisions.”

The concept of Big Data has fooled us into believing that data is only relevant when it’s quantitative. This could not be more wrong. Data is everywhere. It just takes time, patience, and an abundance of curiosity to see it.

Let’s not get so wrapped up in the numbers that we lose sight of the stories, the insight, the soul that give tremendous meaning to data and life.

Source: Will Moneyball Analytics Kill Loyalty and Leadership?


At Connection Cafe: Is Your Data Collection Unbalanced?

For the Connection Cafe blog this month, I wrote about the need to use a balanced qualitative and quantitative approach to learning about constituents. Here’s a teaser of my latest post…the full post is at the Connection Cafe…

Mixed in with the work that I do at Convio, I’m also pursuing a Master’s degree in business anthropology. If you’re like most folks, you may be wondering what that is exactly. This field is somewhat new even though anthropology as a social science has been around for long time. Basically, business anthropologists work with organizations to help them understand things like staff culture, customer relationships, and product design. That’s fairly broad but at it’s core, we study people and their patterns of behavior. What I most love about it is that we are trained to help non-profits and businesses understand the deeper meaning of what seemingly appears ordinary and everyday…then take what works and amplify it.

For an example, let’s apply a business anthropology approach to a common issue among non-profits: how to better engage constituents. Hopefully you have plenty of metrics showing your email open-rates, donor conversion rates, website flowthrough rates, etc. You may also have survey results and graphical analysis. (And if you haven’t recently done this type of quantitative data collection, no worries…hopefully this post will reinvigorate you.)

Now take it one step further. Most businesses and non-profits commit to collecting quantitative data but usually neglect the qualitative data. The reason for this often rests with some common misperceptions that collecting and analyzing qualitative data is difficult, unmeasurable, and overly time-consuming. But, the fact is that every organization that is committed to developing better relationships with its constituents needs to employ a balanced data collection plan. Strict number crunching usually fails to get at the heart of the things that matter most to non-profit organizations which are people and their emotional connection to your cause. It all comes back to understanding the deeper meaning of things which numbers can only hint at.

In addition to your quantitative measurements, what types of qualitative data collection techniques should you consider? It depends largely on what you’re trying to learn. Start with the big question you want to try to answer. Here are two familiar scenarios:

1. If you host events like walks, pet adoptions, or volunteer pledge drives and want to know why individuals are giving their time (always a highly prized commodity) to your organization, consider a participant-observation program. You’ll be actively participating alongside your constituents, learning about their passions and why they believe your cause matters. Your aim is to see your organization’s relationship through the eyes of others and find the commonalities that they share.

2. If you want to know what exactly will help convert individuals from one-time donors to recurring donors (an even more prized commodity in these economic times!), consider an interview program. This is not just a survey in a different form…think of it as a semi-structured conversation guided by your big question. You’re trying to dive deeper into understanding the major themes of the relationship between your constituents and your organization.

One significant caveat to note here…these qualitative approaches are only effective when performed with a curious objectivity. If you think you already know the answers to your questions, you might want to consider employing another impartial staff member to do them or hire a consultant (a business anthropologist, perhaps?).

This is just a thin, surface-level slice of what a balanced quantitative and qualitative approach can deliver to your organization. My hope is that it sparks some dialogue inside your organization about how to best discover significant patterns and meanings within your constituency; then use this knowledge to improve the effectiveness of your actions. If you’re interested in learning more about the field of business anthropology shoot me an email at, leave a comment below, or follow the business anthropology tag on my own blog.