Many government leaders believe they need a “data-driven culture” to usher in more effective and efficient services to residents – because they see one or both of the following scenarios inside their organizations:
- Leaders and managers rely primarily (sometimes exclusively) on gut instinct and experience to guide their work. Data seems trapped in silos. Employees are not using data to inform their work out of reluctance, fear, lack of awareness or training. Tools used to manage and analyze data are intimidating, and very few people understand which tools to reach for first. All the while, technology becomes cheaper, the world becomes awash with data, and everyone wants to “work smarter” but not harder.
- Compared to this reality, a “data-driven culture” seems appealing. However, data is not the secret ingredient to a “data-driven culture.” To borrow a phrase from Dr. Alicia Dowd: “data doesn’t drive.” People do. So chasing a data-driven culture is probably the wrong goal. Data requires analysis to generate insights. It doesn’t jump out of the database and into a decision maker’s head on its own. And good analysis flows from curiosity and inquiry, otherwise analysis is just an answer in search of a question. Therefore, governments should seek a “culture of inquiry” and ensure that culture is informed by data.