My personal collecting habits go back to the early iteration of Panini football sticker albums. Before the days of internet and easy access to ‘missing’ stickers, the endless frustration of yet another Glen Hoddle or my fifth Peter Shilton only rarely being offset by a glimpse of a much-needed golden club crest sticker. The challenge of course being to successfully collect the complete album, the desperate hunt for Bryan Robson to complete my set. Sadly, never to materialise and my first true experience of disappointment.
The whole point of the exercise from a manufacturer point of view being to encourage enough belief that completion was achievable whilst ensuring the amount ‘invested’ was a sum far higher than the individual cost of each sticker needed. The aim of the collector being to achieve the nirvana that was the complete set, to see it gather dust in a bedroom bookcase before being disposed of when you happen to leave home for university and ‘you’re too old for it and you never look at it….’
I have a feeling that we often approach data in the same way. We have a thirst for data, a need for numbers, for ‘facts’. We like to hoard and preciously protect our data in a Gollum-like manner. Opening our laptop and gazing upon the latter day ‘sticker’ we have long hunted for. We have it, we’ve collected it, we’ve achieved our intent. ‘Wait, what? What will we do with it? No, no, you miss the point. We have the data now…’ There is a serious disconnect between intent and action. The desire to collect data is indeed a virtuous one and data can of course be used in creative, exotic, beautiful ways but that’s the whole point – we must usethe data we accumulate.
The approach we take to data collection is, at best old fashioned and at worst completely irrelevant. The data itself is like the stickers, pointless without a home, disappointing if the same as others we already own and informative only in a singular manner. If the number is 7 then that’s what it is, it’s simply a 7. In context and in conjunction with different data and a clear question the 7 can be oh so much more. That humble number firmly embedded between 6 and 8 can be the difference between profit and loss, it can indicate direction, the future, it can imbue a whole new strategy. But and this is the most important question I ask, simply….’what is the question?’ What are we trying to understand, what do we want of the data, what do we need to address?
If we understand the questions we want answered or have a view on the direction we want to take, the collection and exposure of data becomes far more valuable and relevant to our industry. I know that I can answer your question, in fact I’m convinced of it. I would ask for your indulgence while we work together to frame the very best question(s) possible.