I am lucky that I get lots of interesting emails from readers of the blog. I got a one such absolutely wonderful email today from Andrew Burnette.
I am reproducing it here with Andrew’s permission with no additional commentary. I am confident you will find it as insightful and impactful as I did.
A new Malcolm Gladwell had an article in the New Yorker called Open Secrets talks about the difference between a puzzle and a mystery.
According to the article and national-security expert Gregory Treverton, the distinction is:
"Osama bin Laden's whereabouts are a puzzle. We can't find him because we don't have enough information. The key to the puzzle will probably come from someone close to bin Laden, and until we can find that source bin Laden will remain at large.
The problem of what would happen in Iraq after the toppling of Saddam Hussein was, by contrast, a mystery. It wasn't a question that had a simple, factual answer. Mysteries require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much."
Related to that is this one from eMarketer. A recent survey found that managers say that half the information they gather is worthless to the company
eMarketer: Useless Information: http://snipurl.com/178zk
It seems that Web Analytics probably fits into the "mystery" category. The problem is that we tend to think of it as a puzzle….that is, we think there is a "right" answer that is just waiting to be found. So we keep getting more and more information in order to find the answer–which just bogs us down. Instead, we should focus on getting the right information, and doing what we can with it.
We'll never know everything, but that doesn't mean that we can't act on what we do know and still produce results.
The Gladwell piece is worth a read if you happen to get a hold of a copy of The New Yorker. He makes a compelling argument that more data isn't always the answer.
What do you all think?
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