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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

The Data vs Intuition Contradiction

One of my biggest challenges at WooThemes in the past year has been to become more data-driven in everything we do and especially with regards to our decision-making. Analytics & measurement isn't something which we've historically done well, so I emphasized that this was something we needed to learn about in 2012.

This "need" was mostly fueled by the growing pains that we experienced in the last 12 months. We found ourselves in a space where we needed to accelerate the scaling of our team and - at the same time - we needed to optimize our existing structures & processes.

We found ourselves in the middle of a contradiction between revenue & longer-term strategy too; whilst the actual dollars pushed us in one direction, we needed to pay royalties to our past and also to the bigger (future) picture.

We had sometimes burnt our fingers trusting our intuition in the past and we wanted to be more lean in the way we approached future growth. We wanted to avoid making the same mistakes and (for example) over-investing in new projects / revenue channels.

I thought that data would help us navigate a potentially slippery slope and we subsequently used data to pre-validate every potential decision we made. Much to our own detriment.

The problem was that in some instances the data view was a 100% contradiction of our gut feeling, our passion. And moving forward based on that intuition was something that had been ingrained into our DNA over the years.

In an article I wrote earlier this week, I said: "The reality is that a reflection on those successes would’ve probably given me just as much experiential learning as that from failure.".

In the context of making a decision based on data or intuition, I should've picked the latter, as that's what has made us successful for the past 5 years. This would've helped us double-down on the way we best knew how to grow WooThemes.

If it wasn't broken, why were trying to fix it?

I guess part of it is being pulled into the hype of using data measurement & analytics to be a successful, online company.

The primary driver however was the ambition to be better and using data to move from point A to point B. The mistake I made though was trying to change our DNA instead of just influencing the results of that DNA.

What I should've done was to use data to reinforce our intuition & passion; not block it. Maybe the greatest hits are obvious?

If you'd like to chat to me about this or get advice on something similar, feel free to give me a call.

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