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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Data Analytics vs Confirmation Bias

I've often said that corporate culture is the largest impediment to the effective use of data. The problem is simple. Organizations say that they are "data driven" but in practice, people embrace data that supports their prior conclusions and reject data that doesn't match.

We call this confirmation bias.

This morning, I was reading Peggy Noonan's column in the 10/7/2021 edition of the Wall Street Journal and came across this:

"I’m not a huge respecter of polls (only snapshots, not a measure of greatness or consequence) but when polls put numbers on what you’re sensing you pay attention."

Wow. I'd like to call it a "textbook" example of confirmation bias but I think it's beyond that. Few people are this self-aware regarding their own confirmation bias and, of those who realize it, even fewer will openly admit it.

I'm a fan of Noonan's writing. I applaud her honesty but I'm disappointed by her lack of trust in data.

As a long-term colleague and co-author often says - you have to be willing to let the data surprise you.

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