There are a handful of books that will change how you think and how you approach work.
They provide a strategy playbook for marketing plans, new product launches, employee retention strategies, and even how to find a job.
In recent years, one luminary of the tech sector has touted a book by the late Hans Rosling called Factfulness. It came out in 2018, but Bill Gates has mentioned it several times. He’s one to know. The Microsoft co-founder and now famous philanthropist has always been clear about his love for all things data — dating back to the first version of MS-DOS. Gates was “data-
driven” before such a concept even existed in business circles.
Factfulness is a groundbreaking book, and I’ve read it twice. I keep thinking of new strategies to help me in the office and in my job. At the heart of the book is the idea that data — real,
verifiable facts collected over time — should drive our decisions. The book addresses colossal problems of our age, such as world hunger and the poverty line, but flips these models on their heads. Rosling, who died of pancreatic cancer before the book debuted, makes some surprising revelations about our preconceived notions, including the widely held view that hunger problems are getting worse and people are getting poorer and poorer all over the world.
Armed with better data, we can all make better decisions. For someone taking on a new marketing role and trying to analyze the field and understand trends, it’s tempting to dive right in
and try new things. That is the classic — but also rather bone-headed — definition of being an entrepreneur, someone who tries new things. We call it “risk-taking” and “thinking outside of the box,” but it’s also completely wrong. Real entrepreneurs laugh at the notion. If you want to make informed decisions, understand marketing trends, build a product, or grow the revenue at any company, it’s best to understand first what you are dealing with.
It starts with analysis, not random, ill-informed decisions
For that new marketing role, it might mean analyzing your target market and understanding the demographics. Who are the potential customers and what motivates them? Rather than merely sitting in a focus group and asking questions (even if that is important to the process), it’s far better to collect data about prospects and look at the hard numbers.
The reason — which becomes abundantly clear in the book Factfulness — is that the data might surprise you. You might be wrong. You might not know your target demographic is not using social media anymore to find out about your products. You might realize that the job you thought you wanted doesn’t actually pay that well anymore and is not exactly rising in the charts as far as a job employer really needs. It’s also surprising that people don’t take the time to do the research and look at the numbers when they start looking for a job. Even for an important decision such as relocating or changing careers, it’s easy to just start the search. It’s much harder to look at the data first and figure out the best strategy and approach.
Data changes how we look at the world. It certainly has changed how Bill Gates approaches his philanthropic work, and it can change how you approach business decisions.
Here’s a challenge for you. What if you approached every big decision at work, every new project, every new job search, and almost every business endeavor by first looking at the data
and the trends first? What if you analyzed the field, collected the information you needed, parsed it out, and looked at the subject from all angles first? I’m no fan of spending hours
adding data to a spreadsheet, but the truth is — every good decision starts that way.
The challenge here is to look before you leap. And in this case, the “look” means doing the hard work of collecting data first and crunching the numbers. You might be surprised by what you find out.