We are all guilty of ‘survivorship bias’ the principle of focusing on something that has made it past a selection process and ignoring the things that haven’t. For example, aspiring entrepreneurs might take a look at the Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos of this world – analyse their performance, see the traits, the similarities that propelled them to success and assume this will apply to them as well. Or football coaches who might study the success of winning Premiership clubs, looking at winning formations, player skills and attributes.
What we might be guilty of, is discounting the failures. So not looking at the wannabe entrepreneurs, those that didn’t make it, to see what they did wrong and differently to the Jeffs and the Bills. Or not looking at the teams that lost the big games, to see where their performances wobbled, or where their tactics went perennially went wrong. But that information – the ‘what went wrongs’ as opposed to the ‘what went rights’ – is just as important.
This information – the invisible data – paints a whole different picture. And if you apply this to a business setting, the invisible data might pertain to the reasons why projects failed; why certain products and solutions didn’t cut the mustard; the reasons behind issues in the supply chain; the reasons why customers leave.
This invisible data – which might not be as easy or as obvious to obtain – is vital to the understanding of what will work and should greatly improve the chances of business success. If it’s selected out, it paints a far less accurate picture and can negatively impact your project or your business strategy.
It’s a natural instinct to pay attention to what’s in front of you, rather than what isn’t. But if you approach any business initiative at least being aware of survivorship bias and invisible data, you’re half way there.
To learn about this topic in more detail, read our white paper on “How survivorship bias awareness and invisible data delivers better projects and programmes”