An Anthropologist Walks into a Bar…

According to a study of 1500 CEOs, 8 out of 10 expect the business enviroment to grow in complexity. The CEOs see a lack of customer insight as their biggest deficit in managing complexity.

(…) many companies are turning to customer research that is powered by big data and analytics. Although that approach can provide astonishingly detailed pictures of some aspects of their markets, the pictures are far from complete and are often misleading. It may be possible to predict a customer’s next mouse click or purchase, but no amount of quantitative data can tell you why she made that click or purchase. Without that insight, companies cannot close the complexity gap. In the rush to reduce consumers to strings of ones and zeros, marketers and strategists are losing sight of the human element. Consumers are people, after all. They’re often irrational, and they’re sometimes driven by motives that are opaque even to themselves. Yet most marketers cling to assumptions about their customers’ behavior that have been shaped by their organizational culture, the biases of the firm’s managers, and, increasingly, the vast but imperfect data stream flowing in.

Customers are people, after all… You need to understand their needs, and what motivates them.

(An Anthropologist Walks into a Bar… by Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen. HBR March 2014, subscription required)

big-data complexity managing-complexity motivation

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