You might be a fan of the sweet science or you might think it’s barbaric. In either case, there’s something to be learned from the big fight that took place over the weekend. I mean the Manny Pacquiao - Timothy Bradley bout that ended with Bradley winning in a split decision. From the minute the result was announced there have been calls for an investigation. There is an excellent article summarizing the issues in USA Today which also looks at 9 other bouts that had controversial decisions rendered by the judges. Of course, the issue isn’t really with the judgement – it’s with the entire system of a judged sport.
Gymnastics, diving, figure skating, freestyle skiing – there’s a pretty long list of sports in which winners are decided not by a clock or a scoreboard but by a human being’s impression. Boxing is a hybrid – in theory a knockout or other stoppage negates the need for judges at all (although we could argue the referee’s judgement about when someone is incapable of defending themselves plays a role too). What does any of that have to do with your business?
Think about how often we insert our own judgement in decision-making when we don’t have to. Which version of an ad is more effective? Which page design is better? What packaging will attract more customers? What types of content increase engagement? Often we look to the HiPPO involved – the highest paid person’s opinion – when it’s very possible to conduct simple A/B tests or spend a few hours looking at existing data. We ignore the scoreboard and go to the judges. We’re generally not making art – we’re conducting commerce. Because of that, what I happen to like is less important than which customer-facing experience yield the best return.
In the digital world, its pretty easy to test, adjust, and re-test ad infinitum. In the non-digital world, product tests, packing tests, etc. are the norm (I’m often disappointed to find that some great product I’ve found is just a test and disappears). We all need to abandon our egos and learn to love our data a bit more. Otherwise, we might end up like Manny – on the wrong end of a bad decision.