As Gordon Hamilton commented on one of my recent blog posts, some enterprises use just their “reptilian brain,” by which he meant “organizations that do not use any data well, either operational or analytical, and instead rely on their visceral intuition.”
The term reptilian brain is a common reference to the corpus amygdaloideum (more commonly known as the amygdala), one of the oldest (from an evolutionary perspective) parts of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans.
The amygdala is sometimes described as the “emotional brain” whereas the neocortex (the newest part of the mammalian brain from an evolutionary perspective) is described as the “thinking brain.”
The Data Management Brain is analogous to the neocortex, whereas the Reptilian Anti-Data Brain is analogous to the amygdala.
The Reptilian Anti-Data Brain
In organizations where data is not viewed as a corporate asset, business decisions are often intuition-driven instead of data-driven. Common remarks made by people in these organizations are:
- “I don’t trust data.”
- “I don’t need data to tell me what I already know.”
- “I can’t find data that would help me make this business decision.”
- “I don’t have the time to sift through data, I need to make a business decision now.”
- “I can’t allow poor data quality to cause a poor business decision.”
Lies My Data Told Me
Sometimes organizations start off using their Data Management Brain, but after being consistently disappointed by the quality of their data, or the poor results of their data-driven business decisions, they start reverting to using their Reptilian Anti-Data Brain.
Salting the Data Mine
Other times when organizations perform data analysis, they end up “salting the data mine” by allowing their confirmation bias to carefully select only the data that supports their intuition, or confusing correlation with causation, resulting in bad, albeit data-driven, business decisions.
What Says Your Brain?
Does your organization use its Data Management Brain or its Reptilian Anti-Data Brain?