I have a dilemma! I am a firm believer in the power of analytics for monitoring and managing your marketing. But I also believe that we live in a world where we tend to overuse analysis tools. The key to reconciling this dilemma is the word OVERUSE!
Whilst I firmly believe that analysis is a key business tool, its overuse is a bad thing. Furthermore, analytics rarely give definitive answers and issues arise when indicators presented through analysis are presented as fact.
In my experience, one casualty of over analysis is creativity. Creativity takes time, and is inherently inefficient. If you are being truly creative, you can’t expect all of your output to be brilliant. It is likely that some of your work will, whilst important in the process, come to nothing!
Over analysing can lead you to kill creative projects that are not going in the direction you expect. But given time these projects may actually deliver great results.
John Cleese on Creativity
I grew up with Monty Pythons Flying Circus, and I believe that they were and are creative genii. I think (maybe because I took Latin at school) the graffiti sketch in the Life of Brian is one of the funniest bits of film ever! But watch full episodes of the Monty Python TV show. Much of it is not very funny, and that’s the stuff that made the screen! My point is that even talented people like the Python’s don’t hit the mark all the time. But they need the freedom to produce the dogs, to allow them to hit the comedy gold like the graffiti sketch!
Search YouTube, and you will find John Cleese talking a lot about creativity. One point he makes is that to be creative, you need to create space and time “to play”. Analysis may suggest that much of this time is not very productive. Whilst this may be true, it is needed as part of the process, and your analysis needs to recognise this fact.
Its not the Analysis that’s at fault, its how it is used
Analysis itself is not at fault here, its how it is used. It is my view that analysis should be used to inform decisions, not make them. The danger where creativity and innovation is concerned is that the ability to analyse and measure things in detail, encourages a process where decision making is primarily evidence based, driven by data of what has happened/worked in the past.
However by definition, being creative means pushing the boundaries & trying things that have not been tried before. These activities are very difficult to justify based on evidence of past activities. As Henry Ford is quoted as saying “If I asked people what they want, they would ask for a faster horse”. Whilst it is widely acknowledged that Mr Ford never uttered these words, it does illustrate the issue. If you base creativity purely on research looking to the past, you are never going to be truly creative.
So how do we square the circle?
As Einstein pointed out “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insane”. As such using past activities & results to inform future actions can prevent you repeating old mistakes and thus is a vital part of business. But the flip of this is that just because there is no evidence to suggest something new will be a success, does not mean it is doomed to failure. Creativity requires you to say “That sounds interesting, my gut tells me it has potential, and there is nothing to suggest it has been tried & failed before and failed so lets give it a go and see what happens!”
Being creative is a punt!
Yes you weigh up the risks & rewards, but ultimately you have just got to put analysis to on side and jump into the unknown!