Normally, I skip out of Microsoft Convergence a day early. Microsoft Dynamics Partners are busy with their customers, and I'm usually ready to be back in my own bed. This year, however, Malcolm Gladwell was scheduled as the closing keynote speaker. I've read (and loved) many of his books including Blink and The Tipping Point. So I stayed -- and I'm so glad I did.
I'm always surprised how well introverted writers do at speaking. I thought Malcolm (...er Mr. Gladwell?) was just brilliant. He talked about the role of technology in decision making, unwitting bias, and the astonishing inability of experts to deconstruct their own brilliance. But probably the topic that piqued my interest most of all is how the over abundance of information degrades the decision making process.
My favorite Malcolm Gladwell story that illustrated that point was about emergency room doctors. When people come in to the hospital complaining of chest pain, it's obviously pretty important to figure out as quickly as possible if they're having a heart attack -- or just indigestion. Typically doctors ask all kinds of questions, take a full health history -- and still are only right about half the time. Then some smart market research company crunched all the data to figure out which pieces of data were the most important, and reduced all that time-consuming gathering of information into 4 simple data points -- like looking at the EKG. By reducing the data points being considered, they were able to increase their predictions to be right over 80% of the time. Wow. This makes total sense, yet it's so contrarian.
Really, the process the ER doctors use isn't that much different from us marketing consultants. And we both love to ride in on our white stallion and save the day! Just because we ask a ton of questions doesn't mean we'll always give the right diagnosis. Perhaps it's not a marketing problem at all. I've experienced that a few times with clients, where I "fix" their lead generation problem -- only to discover their products/services are way below par. Even if I get my client a few new clients, they don't stay because there's no knowledge or value. At that point marketing IS an expense -- they need to quit marketing and go back to product development.
For my own business and life, I realized that too frequently I deluge myself with information. Every nuance of a decision gets weighed, evaluated, measured and compared to see if it's the "right" decision. When often, I could greatly reduce the complexity by keeping it simple.
My actionable take away is to think through what data points I really need to look at in my business -- and what I should ignore. If you made it to Malcolm Gladwell's closing keynote, what did you think? What did you take away? Hope to you at Microsoft Convergence 2012 -- if not sooner.