The Words You Use Reveal If You Are Data-Driven

The topic of analytics is intimidating and even scary for many people, not because it involves technical discussions about databases, mathematics, or machine learning, but because the aim of analytics is to stop impostors dead in their tracks.

By definition, you cannot be an analytics driven organization and at the same time have managers, at any level, spewing myths, assumptions, and outright fallacies about the way their company works, the market moves, or the customer thinks. This is the scariest part of the analytics era, the job insecurity that it creates for managers who have based their entire career progression on being hired for what they “should know” instead of what they “must prove”.

With all the talk of Big Data and Predictive Analytics technology, oftentimes it is managers that are holding back their companies from maturing analytically. Answer these questions about your company. How many managers do you know in your company that proudly use the phrase “I don’t know. let’s find out”? How many decisions in your company are made by the most senior people instead of the domain experts? When was the last time anyone asked at a meeting if there were any way to dig deeper into a recurring problem? Now ask yourself if people, not technology, are the real reason why your company is not more data-driven?

It’s time to begin the process of weeding out the people whose positions depend on being covered by the cloud of data-free ignorance under which many business decisions have been made since the beginning of business. These managers are costing your business untold sums because they are either repeating the same mistakes over and over or missing opportunities or managing for the year 1995. Let’s launch the How Do you Know That? – HDYKT movement.

Whether you work at an small, medium or large company, in a Finance, Marketing, or Operations meeting, start asking HDYKT anytime you hear someone at your company use any of the following phrases:

“I think…”
“I’m pretty sure that…”
“I’m hopeful that…”
“It’s a known fact that…”
“The way it’s done in this industry is…”
“It’s always been the case that…”
“In my experience..”
“I expect that…”
“In my X years in this industry…”
“I heard that..”
“It’s anybody’s guess…”
“I will bet you that..”
“I can guarantee you that…”
“You have to assume that…”
“He/She has been in the industry a long time and he/she thinks that…”
“It seems that..”
“Off the top of my head, I think…”
“I read once that…”
“I have always heard that…”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if…”
“In my opinion…”
“In all probability..”
“99% of the time…”
“Experts agree that…”
“It’s been proven that…”
“Who’s to say?”
If you’re really serious about pushing HDYKT try this. Over the period of one week or one month, count how many times you hear your colleagues use any of these phrases. Then tally it up and post the totals in your cubicle, office or wherever you are allowed to post it. Then sit back and see how conversations change. I have already started doing this exercise with some of my clients and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. One owner has ordered a review of how often these phrases were used in company communications[emails] over the last three years.  Can you suggest any more.  Send them to me at and I will update this list.

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Robert Hernandez, Revenue Discovery Expert Author Info: Robert Hernandez is an expert in the field of mathematical Optimization and Analytics. He has spent his entire career building data-driven forecasting and optimization models for companies in over 20 different industries, from tech to tourism. Robert possesses a very unique skill set including cross-disciplinary experience, advanced mathematical and analytics skills, data transformation, industry-specific knowledge and business-process improvement expertise. Read More+