Nick Francis, co-founder of support company Help Scout, believes that “Data can serve as an impartial reality check, but it’s not a crystal ball” (Francis). In his article “Here’s What Your Data Isn’t Telling You About Your Business”, Francis illustrates that while the troves of data companies own can paint a detailed picture of where they stand and the decisions they should make, they don’t tell the entire story. While I recognize how valuable data is to companies of all sizes, I happen to agree with Francis’ position that by focusing entirely on the metrics, companies lose sight of the vision that delivered them to where they are today. I believe that firms have become obsessed with trying to recognize the greatest ROI on every decision they make by consulting spreadsheets and charts, leading them to a myopic way of running their business. This myopia has led them away from innovation and the root of what made them great in the first place. I understand that there is a certain comfort in working with data. One can easily analyze what is on the sheet in front of him and make an educated decision based off the writing on the wall. Francis writes, “What makes working on the immeasurables so difficult is information asymmetry….In the end, your decision will hinge on how deeply your company believes the immeasurables matter” (Francis 2). Anyone who is an analytic thinker will naturally shy away from the immeasurables because of the inability to quantify the impact it can have on their business. This is when companies need to get back to basics and focus on the reason they opened their doors in the first place: to help people.
Francis explains that while building Help Scout, they needed to make a decision about their pricing model. After crunching all the numbers and pouring over data, the team made a decision. In the weeks leading up to the launch, they realized they had only focused on the spreadsheets, not how it would impact their customer’s perception of the company. They changed course and picked the other option. This example shows how wading out of the numbers and back to your core values can help get you on track. While we observe hundreds of companies pouring energy into data that tells them where to go and what to create, companies with vision can go full steam ahead on what they know works. “Great companies aren’t great because they can predict ROI: they’re great because they succeed on the immeasurables” (Francis 3). We don’t love companies because they’re most efficient with their data. We love them because of what they build, because of the vision they had that has improved how we live our lives every day. It is impossible to deny the value that data adds to companies. However, while we recognize and respect that value, one cannot forget the vision, the immeasurables, that are the lifeblood and driving force behind the company.