By: Conor Fitzpatrick
social science research finding that late ’80s tobacco excise tax hikes reduced California cigarette sales (and emphatically not that California’s distaste for tobacco caused tax hikes!), to the strategic analysis in Chris Zook’s Beyond the Core. This method uses linear regression techniques, and is deployed easily with a few lines of code and a downloadable module in statistical programs such as R and Stata.
Jobs to be Done method of customer analysis is the right approach. When a company asks customers directly how a product should be improved, respondents will usually limit their answers according to preexisting measures of success and ignore totally new or different possibilities. But when you use a Jobs-focused approach and ask customers questions like “when is the last time you thought, ‘I wish I had a toothbrush’?” you can develop a new understanding of their success criteria. When the customer says “after lunch at work to get kale out of my teeth,” a single-use disposable toothbrush that doesn’t even require a trip to the bathroom starts to sound like a very good idea!
When doubt overcomes your analytical process, identify the source of that doubt and build/find/create a model, like the ones above, that solves it.
Understand that analysis is never perfect, and improve it with trial, error, and mixed methods. Knowledge from data analysis will never scream an exact answer for a strategic question to you, or even guarantee to you the answer’s veracity. Once you’ve found methods that work, make sure that you’re neither over- nor under-confident in applying your analysis findings to your strategic decision-making process.
Every analysis you carry out should, to avoid over- and under-confidence, include the following:
· A list of assumptions on which your analysis is contingent
· A list of caveats explaining the problems that remain in the analysis
· And, most importantly, a list of problems that your data analysis has solved
This will keep your strategic decisions rooted in the data. Mark Twain would turn in his grave.
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