Joseph Carrabis, on his blog replied to June Li’s and our vexing problem.

Here’s the main body of the quote:

Howdy, Thanks to June Li for calling me and asking me to take part in this discussion (for those who don’t know, you can reach me far quicker and more easily by phone or Skype than email).

Okay. First question: “Why are Canadians so reluctant to embrace data driven strategy?” …

I’ll offer an opinion based on lots of research (from others as well as NextStage’s). Canada is still a pioneering society, the US isn’t. Nor is much of the EU…I’m sitting here wondering where else pioneering…probab…Oh, Australia. Duh!

I don’t have any direct data and I’m willing to bet northern Europe still works on pioneering manifestos.

I also need to share that I haven’t found Canadians skeptical of a marketing science approach. At least I haven’t found them skeptical to NextStage’s approach.

It’s fairer to suggest that it’s how things are taught in the schools rather than “…something in our school system that turns people off and away from statistics.” I know some very impressive statisticians based out of NS (Hi, John! Hi, Shauna! Yo, Roger! Caimar tha sibh, Calum agus Eachainn agus fearheann a’ Castail na Gunnah!) and to be honest, I doubt any of these people would consider themselves statisticians, only people who use statistics as part of what they do. I also think this last element is part of at least the NS if not Atlantic Canada culture.

One way pioneering mentalities manifest themselves is something I’m often guilty of; I don’t get something until it’s totally, completely obvious I need it. A polite way of saying this might be “fiscal conservatism” and I hesitate to use the term because I’d rather people not think in socio-political-economic terms so much as in psycho-behavioral manifestation terms. In much of Canadian business this manifests itself in a hesitation to adopt new concepts and technologies. This hesitancy has nothing to do with the inherent accuracy or value of the new concepts or technologies, only in that there is not a strong enough case made for adoption (even on a trial basis).

This (I believe) is what June is commenting on in her “But it seems that squeezing insight from data, testing and optimizing fall into the “important but not urgent” category by opinion and “not urgent, not important” by action (or lack of action).” My opinion (big warning here. I’m offering my opinion. I know lots of people who’ve done studies around these elements and read their work, I’ve not seen anything directly on it, hence I’m synthesizing lots of material to form an opinion) is that June (and obviously others) are observing some behaviors and implying an inaccurate attribution (Joseph speak for “You saw what you saw and I think your interpretation of what you saw is incorrect. You, dear June, are of course perfect. It’s the interpretation I question, not you.”). June’s statement that what’s being observed isn’t new and has a history is simply an exemplar of this cultural motif — It’s not new either and its demonstration has been in Canadian culture for some time.

June also offers “We’re lamenting the lost opportunities that Canadians are missing on the global stage. And we can’t afford to lose more opportunities on the Web, a more level playing field than others…”

This is something that falls out from what I was showing in my Emetrics Toronto presentation. People might remember my sharing how seasons and location effect a society’s thought processes. I took a peek just now at the Canadian overall cognitive process for the past few days and what do I see?

  • These people tend to keep their own counsel although they will listen to others
  • They are swayed by statements and/or arguments of what is going right, right now
  • They base decisions on what might happen right now rather than what might happen later on

This (to me, anyway) fits in well with what June is describing in her post. Pioneering mentalities are adept at prioritizing and the benefits presented by the type of testing and optimizing suggested by June and others simply isn’t making it to the top of the priority list (as it is being currently presented. You can get it to the top of the lists and that’s about a day long class, if anybody’s interested. I will offer that demonstrating value along the elements I’ve listed above is the key. The methodology got us some very lucrative Canadian based contracts. We’ve repeated the cognitive methodology many times, always successfully).

Jacques Warren (Bonjour, mon ami!) doubts the challenge is because of the schools and has more to do with Canadian business culture. Well…I’d offer that it’s endemic to both and again has its roots in the pioneering cultural motif. I truly appreciated his “I find Canadian business culture to be far more sheepish when it comes to trying new things. Whereas Americans will fill up the tank and stump the gas pedal to see how far they can go, Canadian business people will put a liter in the tank, and decide to add gas based on how far they will get with the first liter.” This is (to me) a very direct statement of the psycho-behavioral “fiscal conservatism” I mentioned earlier in the post. Well done and well stated, Jacques!

Jacques then suggests “I think we need to wait until Americans have really proven something to work before we decide to fully engage it in. By that time, our friends south the border have already gotten a dominant position.” Again, this plays into the motif mentioned above. I also need to offer a counter example; Maritime Canada has been years ahead of the US in digital telephony simply because they never made the investment in copper. Canada’s weakness can also be its competitive strength, it’s simply (simply???) a matter of recognizing the correct triggers to drive investment and action.

Another example is a counter to Jacques “It could also be a question of available capital. It’s by far easier to fund new ideas in the US.” For what it’s worth, NextStage’s early funding has come mostly from Canada, as did the majority of its early adopters. Americans will move quickly and often in an invalid direction. This is because America still has and promotes a colonizing mentality, a shoot first and ask questions later mentality (yes, I know that’s stereotyping. Someday remind me to explain the function of stereotyping in social concepts. I wrote in KBar’s Findings: Political Correctness in the Guise of a Sandwich, Finale that marketers use stereotypes all the time, they just call them personae and that name change seems to make stereotyping much more acceptable).

Christopher Berry then offered that universities “…don’t have a very nice approach to statistics – it’s all ‘counting’ problems.” Amusing to me because I’m currently Skyping with one of my mentors in statistics. I do agree about the challenge with universities. I recently had a discussion with a statistician and realized quickly that this individual’s training (I’m sure this person is an excellent statistician) made them into a very good tool user, not a very good tool maker. There is extreme value to me in the melding of both. People who know how to make tools are usually very adept at using them. Others might be more adept in the use of the tool and it would never occur to them to make the tool in the first place, regardless of the need (very few sword makers are also sword masters and very few sword masters are master sword makers. The few that fall into both camps are rare indeed).

Christopher also writes “I think that in some ways, it might be a failure to communicate the advantage. In other ways, I think there are credibility gaps.” I would offer that the former is creating the latter in many cases.

And many thanks for inviting me to participate in this conversation. – Joseph

My first reflection of a ‘fiscal conservative’ system is based on Canadian Parliamentary systems – that is, the power of the status quo. One of the reasons why it’s so hard for politicians to do anything in Canada is because the system is explicitly set up to always compare a single alternative to the status quo. I once watched Nova Scotian Scott Brison poison pill a Conservative bill a few years back with a single amendment of one sentence. Every single amendment to a bill permanently changes it. Then, you’re always looking at the bill against the status quo. One slight misstep, and the bill might die. Or become irrelevant.

So, I’ll come out and say that maybe the root is this power of the status quo in Canada — I’m not going to adopt something new unless I absolutely must have it. (After all, it took over a hundred years for us to patriate our own constitution, and 50 years to get control over our own foreign affairs). In one case, it was because Trudeau absolutely needed something. In the other, it was because Britain wanted to give Canada that power for years.

How do you overcome the threat of the status quo in Canada? Joseph is right – necessity.

Canada was actually founded, in no small part, on the very notion of avoiding civil war. (And losing the continent) (Check out the speeches from the era – they’re quite rich in pointing out, with classic Canadian superiority (while ignoring 1837) the carnage in Europe and what the United States had just endured.).

We’ll typically only do something when we need to do it.

How do you create an air of necessity?

LOL – maybe you do what Entertainment Tonight does every night? Sensationalize or exaggerate!

Or, do you do you use fear? (Well, the competition is starting up their analytics practice, if you don’t do it now, you’ll be left behind!).

Or do you use rational logic? Spell it out completely. Show them the spreadsheet with the estimated lift. Use third party research to lend credibility?

My gut tells me that it’s combination of all 3 emotions – people buy on emotion, justify on logic. Start off with a little razzle dazzle. Introduce some fear of being “left behind”, but just briefly, and then close with the financial logic?

Do we sell a measurement program to Canadians much like we sell HDTV’s and Nintendo Wii’s to the masses?

(Wow, check out how cool this is! You need one because it’s so much fun, and even your neighbors are getting it. Besides, the Wii comes with a whole bunch of health and family games, and this is something really family friendly, and you need to get some exercise anyway!)

Interesting – but if it’s truly about overcoming the status quo with necessity – well, we got work cut out for us.