Metrics and methodology, profit and loss, regression testing, cost-benefit analyzing, KPIs, ROI. Business – from how we think about it, to how we execute and measure it – is a series of rational decisions made to maximize return and mitigate risk.
However, consumers are emotional. Their needs, wants, desires, dreams, feelings, thoughts, motivations, experiences and histories affect their daily decision-making on everything from brands of toothpaste to technology.
At some point, we get to a fairly intuitive disconnect between company and consumer: I.e., business decisions are rational while consumers’ decisions are emotional.
It would seem that most businesses aren’t well equipped to bridge this emotional divide. Business schools don’t teach non-rational skills. Businesses see consumers through the filters of their organizations, their priorities, their biases and their rational processes and tools.
Consumers are treated more like science projects than as subjects of art to be understood for all their realities and dreams. And this is a huge missed opportunity.
Think of your favorite artists. Mozart, Madonna, Monet, Matisse, Michelangelo (and those are just some of the “Ms”). They don’t simply express ideas. They understand their subjects and their worlds around them uniquely from others. It is only then that the artist translates his or her unique understanding to an expression that resonates with people and ultimately makes an impact on an audience.
Similarly, this is what businesses are trying to do – understand consumers uniquely from others; create expressions (products, messaging, etc.) that resonate; and make an impact on people’s lives. However, at some point all the science, information and rational processes get in the way.
When we approach business as a science we are dependent on data and information to drive our decisions. However, when we treat business as an art, our focus shifts from one reliant on data, to one driven by understanding. Whereas science is about information, art is about understanding.
We could use more art in business, more understanding – not simply more information and ways to get it.
This is not to say we need less science and information. The advances made in information gathering and the data now available is incredibly important. From behavioral economics and neuroscience, to active and passive monitoring, to the ability to forecast and predict, we are able to gather incredibly interesting information to help us make better decisions.
We need a greater balance. Because without the context, without the emotional understanding, we create a commoditized and uninspired future. A future any competitor can create. And that might be the biggest risk of all to mitigate.