Soapbox: We need to be more skeptical about the insights we’re getting

In today’s Soapbox, we must understand where our insights come from because we really don’t want to be making major decisions based on faulty data.

Think about the last statistic someone threw at you, whether that’s on the Captivate monitor in the elevator or the latest medical study you read about. Was your first thought: “I need to know more about how the research was conducted before I take this as truth?” Unless you’re in academia or social science, the answer is probably not. And that’s an issue.

Every organization wants to better use data to make decisions. Research and surveys are increasingly important as new regulations limit the type of data organizations can collect. But if we’re making decisions based on research, it’s increasingly important to be skeptical of the science behind the numbers. Everyone should have a basic knowledge of social science so they can better identify biased research.

Some questions to consider when looking at research:

  • Where did the research originate, and what are the incentives of that organization? What about other research that’s cited? Don’t forget to look at the footnotes.
  • Are the questions written in a way that’s understandable? Are they leading?
  • Are there too many questions, leading the respondent to go on auto-pilot and give random answers?
  • Is the topic something sensitive that respondents might lie about? Are we asking them to rely entirely on memory?

No one is expecting a marketer to be an expert in social science – that’s why there are specialists handling research. But if marketers don’t dig under the hood of where the insights come from, they could make major decisions based on faulty intel.

Soapbox is a special feature for marketers in our community to share their observations and opinions about our industry. You can submit your own here.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Amos Budde leads a team that designs and implements data science products and services for any organization looking to understand and engage people. Previously, Amos led Civis’s Research and Social Science group. Before Civis, Amos worked for Obama for America as a battleground states elections analyst, where he built tools that forecasted the election outcome, informed where to hold campaign rallies, and helped manage volunteer time and resources. He was awarded a Technology Fellowship with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, where he helped construct a plan for leadership that would improve the Court’s data analytics capabilities. Amos holds a BS in Mathematics from Brown University.

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