Business people love numbers because numbers make them feel secure. But in emerging markets, numbers are rarely reliable. And managers that rely on numbers are unlikely to succeed.
In many cases, quantitative analyses use the past to predict the future. But we live in an era when the future almost never resembles the past. It is extremely difficult to take the pace of technology into account. Extrapolating today’s trends into the future almost never works.
Bare statistics tend to miss the nuances of the market. A survey might show that 60 percent of all customers use a company’s product. But a qualitative approach might reveal that the customers are unhappy with the company’s service, and many are considering switching to a competitor.
Yet, as companies grow, they tend to rely more and more on quantitative techniques. They become locked up in numbers and big data. They end up with products that do not match the needs of the market nearly as well as the products of entrepreneurs. Creativity is squeezed out of the system.
When you are creating new markets, no one really knows where you are headed. You have to be more creative. A well-known CEO at Apple once said he is wary of numbers-oriented analysis: The only quantitative data I use are what people have done, not what they are going to do. No great marketing decisions have ever been made on quantitative data.