page title icon Data-Driven Decision Making and the Biases That Affect Our Choices

Unraveling the Myths of Pure Data Analytics: Exploring Biases, Tools, and Quantitative Intuition with Oded Netzer

In this episode of the Fast Leader Show, we are joined by Oded Netzer, a Columbia Business School professor and Amazon Scholar. Oded, an expert in data-driven decision making, discusses common biases like overconfidence, availability, and confirmation bias that can hinder our use of data. 

He introduces the powerful IWIK (I Wish I Knew) tool, which focuses on identifying key questions rather than complex statistical analysis. We delve into the concept of quantitative intuition, emphasizing the value of precision questioning, contextualizing data, and synthesizing information for decision-making. 

Oded reveals the importance of combining data with intuition and building teams that understand both business and data science. He also discusses his book, “Decisions over Decimals,” which promotes starting with a decision and embracing uncertainty. 

Finally, we examine the role of context in data analysis and the dangers of data without context. Join us as we navigate the nuanced world of data-driven decision making.

Oded Netzer was born and raised in the Mediterranean city of Haifa Israel. He has an older brother and sister. As a kid, Oded enjoyed playing soccer in the street with goals being simple stones they found on the roadside and taking apart parts of machines his father brought back home from work, which he never bothered to reassemble. 

His father is a German Jew born a few years before WWII started. He is a holocaust survivor who spent WWII fleeing Nazi Germany to Poland, Siberia, and Kazakhstan. After the war, he immigrated to Israel where he met Oded’s mother. Having skipped his entire education during the war, Oded’s father taught himself mechanical engineering.

Oded is a first-generation college student earning his industrial engineering degree from one of Israel’s top institutions, the Technion, Israel institute for technology. Being a first-generation college student, he took the whole thing seriously and stayed in college forever. As a recovered engineer after his undergraduate degree he started working in consulting, this is where he developed his passion for research, analytics, and business decision-making. He then decided to move to the other side of research to academia where he did his Master’s in statistics and PhD in marketing at Stanford. It used to take him 15 minutes to explain what he does for a living, and then Data Science became a household word. Oded then replaced the sun of California with the city life of New York where he is Arthur J. Samberg Professor of Business and the Vice Dean for Research at Columbia Business School, an affiliate of the Columbia Data Science Institute. He also splits his time between Columbia and Amazon where serves as an Amazon Scholar at Amazon’s advertising. 

Oded is a world-renowned expert in data-driven decision-making in extracting meaningful insights from data. He has published dozens of papers and multiple book chapters on this topic and has won multiple awards both for his research and his teaching.

Teaching analytics to MBA students and executives at Columbia, he noticed that managers often fear using data for decision-making because they erroneously believe that you need to be top of your class in math to do so. That led him to write a book with Chris Frank, and Paul Magnone about data-driven decision-making called Decisions Over Decimals: Striking the Balance between Intuition and Information.

Oded and his wife Susan, an HR consultant, reside in Manhattan next to Columbia University with their three children, Talia, Ella, and Aviv, along with their Cavalier King Charles puppy, Toby.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @OdedNetzer get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShowClick to Tweet

“Now that we have data, it is actually the intuition to pour judgment into the data. It’s the intuition in order to combine actually our business acumen, our experience, our intuition with information that’s arriving at us.” – Click to Tweet

“The biases that affect our use of data is the fact that we tend to judge the book by its cover, the fact that we tend to use the most readily available information to judge an action as opposed to digging in deeper when needed.” – Click to Tweet

“Data without context is dangerous.” – Click to Tweet

“FOMO is exactly the reason why we looking for this perfect decision, this illusionary perfect decision, this illusionary certainty.” – Click to Tweet

“One important thing about risk and specifically related to FOMO is something we call a two-way door decision versus one-way door decision.” – Click to Tweet

“What is needed are exactly these skills to ask the right questions of the data, the precision questioning, the ability to contextualize the analysis, whatever the analysts provide, put in the context of the business, and finally synthesize it into making decisions.” – Click to Tweet

“What you need is data translators. It’s actually almost a new and emerging career path, those who understand enough of the business and understand enough of the data science to speak the language.” – Click to Tweet

“Our goal…was first to demystify the myth of the perfect decision…to introduce…this new set of skills, this new muscle that we call quantitative intuition, to see how we actually, truly move into a better world of data-driven decision making.” – Click to Tweet

Advice for others

The skill of patience, the skill of embracing the journey right as you are going through it, as opposed to just looking towards the end goal, realizing that a lot of what is happening is actually in the journey itself, not only in the outcome.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

The ability to synthesize information, the ability to actually combining thing and connecting dots.

Best Leadership Advice

Spend time with the problem. Before you jump into a solution mode, spend time with a problem.

Secret to Success / Tools

Context – my capacity to critically evaluate information, drawing from diverse knowledge and environments, to uncover connections that might initially seem unrelated – a human skill that surpasses machines.

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are

Decisions Over Decimals website:

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