Data or Gut? They Go Hand in Hand

So, data or “gut”?

Really, it’s a phony baloney question. I’ll have both, please. Gut alone is basically just you being a witch doctor, which is fine as long as you’re right. (Don’t mess up.)

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iPhone 5s

Data alone is OK, but I think in arts and entertainment, you’ll hit a wall pretty quickly. Data is backward-looking by definition. Steve Jobs didn’t come up with the idea for the iPhone by reading the results of an A/B test, but a lot of the products Apple has competed with over the last decade did. He married intuition and skill (which you could call “gut” if you want) with data in the right places.

There’s a marketing legend about Lee Iacocca, the man who saved Chrysler in the ’80s and who supposedly believed in the ’70s that Americans were interested in convertibles, which had disappeared from the car industry for a while. But all the “data” said people didn’t want them and wouldn’t pay for the feature.

So he had the engineers at Chrysler hack one together, and he drove it to a mall parking lot. As he suspected, people gawped in wonder at the machine and couldn’t help but come and talk to him about it. He knew he’d seen something that the data couldn’t possibly show him, and that’s why there are convertibles again.

Who knows how totally accurate that story is, but it does illustrate the interplay between data and “gut.” Google can optimize search results using nothing but data, but I assure you that the invention of paid search was not the product of tweaking the size of a button or the color of a font.

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