Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The perils of a data-driven culture at Google

Techradar.com has an article about Google's culture of being data-driven decision making and its affect on the visual and user experience teams. In fact it had such a big affect on the former Visual Design Lead, Douglas Bowman, he left the company. Techradar interviews Google's Director of User Experience Irene Au. Irene explains the importance of data and how Google's culture emphasizes experimentation which may rub some designers the wrong way.

I've never really thought of being a data-driven culture could have its drawbacks. As an analyst I see only the merits of having data. But there are people who like to think way outside the box and not agree with me. This could be a good thing to learn as an Operations Research practitioner. There are definitely some soft-skills we could learn to help implement our data-driven ideas in our respective organizations.

There is one thing that I didn't agree with from Irene Au in the article. Here's here quote from the article...

"That's why we have a significant team of designers who bring unique skills to the teams they work with. Data informs decision-making but it's less useful for conceiving and building conceptually new directions. It's most useful for optimising and refining an established concept."
While I agree it's good to get other people's ideas to the table I do not agree on how data is less useful for conceiving and building new concepts. Maybe I'm taking her a little out of context but I could argue how data can help shape new ideas of thinking. I've done that a lot in my career. In fact the whole field of data mining pretty much defines this as their objective.

I definitely think there could be things to learn from examining the cultures of the organizations we work. Implementing Operations Research ideas and recommendations can be difficult. Perhaps it takes examining our organization and finding how others define optimality.

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