Evolve from opinion-operated to data-driven decisions

Guy Cuthbert, CEO

In the competitive grocery sector, few people would argue that using retailer data to inform promotions and stock distribution is an invaluable opportunity. Your company may have even invested in AI, data analysis, and visualisation tools for this purpose. However, despite this thirst for moving towards evidence-based decision making, you find that many decisions are still made on gut-feel or aggregated data alone.

As we mentioned in our latest eBook, the greatest obstacle to being data-driven is rarely a lack of technology or data; instead, a culture of assumption-based decision-making, placing data analysts in siloes, and too few senior data champions are the real challenges. In a 2021 NewVantage Partners survey, 92.2% of mainstream companies reported that they “continue to struggle with cultural challenges relating to organisational alignment, business processes, change management, communication, people skill sets, and resistance or lack of understanding to enable change”[1].

Understanding what motivates you and your employees helps you to nudge your company culture towards data-driven decision making. In time, using insights will feel less like a novelty and more a natural part of daily operations.

What’s my motivation?

As much as we like to believe the contrary, humans are rarely rational beings. Our behaviour is influenced by many motivations, some invisible even to ourselves. Being aware of this is useful for bringing about behavioural changes in businesses.

Think about your teams’ personal goals and challenges and work from there to find small ways that you can promote data-driven decision making. Remember that individuals’ motivations will differ greatly depending on their age, gender, culture, and career aspirations. Try to anticipate the questions they will ask themselves when changing their way of operating, such as:

  • “Will my manager encourage the use of this tool?”
  • “Is anyone else in my company using this service?”
  • “Will this make my job easier?
  • “Will this change help me advance in my career?”

If you can ensure your employees will answer all these questions with a resounding “yes”, you are much more likely to move your company in the direction you want.

data-driven decision blog

Intrinsic motivation: the missing link?

Another approach to thinking about motivation is to consider whether your tools and company culture appeal to a mix of employees’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. While extrinsic motivation is well understood, with companies offering career development opportunities and other incentives, strategies that increase intrinsic motivation are harder to implement and measure. Intrinsic motivation fosters long-term commitment and engagement with work and is therefore specific to each employee. That said, it is made up of three elements:

  • Autonomy refers to the feeling of having a choice in what one does and not being controlled by others
  • Mastery is about feeling competent in one’s abilities and being given tasks with the a balance of challenge and achievement
  • Connection involves a person’s sense of purpose in what they do as well as how they relate to other people

Applying these in practice might include:

  • Involving employees in goal setting and asking them for ideas of how to implement the changes you propose (autonomy)
  • Being clear about the benefits of using your new tools and selling them to your teams in terms they will appreciate: “this will make your job easier”, “it will cut down on time needed to retrieve data”. Connect these benefits to their personal goals. (connection + mastery)
  • Framing tasks as analytical problems that need to be solved, rather than routine reporting. Let your data analysts know that they can innovate and their suggestions will be considered. (mastery + autonomy)
  • Asking questions. Ask what kinds of challenges your teams find motivating. Ask why your data analysts have come to one decision over another. Ask for feedback on data analysis tools. (connection + autonomy)
  • Being seen to use analytics tools yourself. Humans are social animals who crave belonging. If you “walk the talk” and use the tools in question, your teams will follow suit. (connection)
  • If motivation is low, try to identify and remove the cognitive or physical obstacles involved. Do your employees feel comfortable using analytics tools? Do you need to sit down and explain how to set up a new account and use its most important features? (connection + mastery)
  • Organising training sessions with the providers of your analytics tools. Any good analytics tool should feel intuitive and satisfying to use. Hearing its benefits from the creators and having the chance to ask them questions will increase your employees’ feelings of mastery of the tool. (connection + mastery)


Inspiring change as a manager requires you to be synchronised with your team: aware of their motivations, sensitive to their concerns, and receptive to their ideas. You need to identify obstacles preventing the transition to data-driven decision making and do everything in your power to remove them, be it demonstrating how to use data tools yourself or organising training interventions with your analytics tool provider. Once new habits are fixed, you need to reinforce them through praise, developing stronger  relationships with your retailer customers, and understanding that while you cannot make the right decision every time, informing your choices will lead to more accurate predictions in the long run. 

If people at all levels of your organisation are convinced by the benefits of data-driven decision making, this will be reflected in the accuracy and innovation of their solutions to complex challenges. What’s more, securing even small wins using insight triggers a positive feedback loop internally and externally. For example, becoming data-driven enables suppliers to provide detailed commentary and make informed suggestions to their retailer counterparts, fostering a collaborative relationship, and establishing them as a trusted source of advice. As a result, it might help them increase sales (e.g. by demonstrating that orders need to be higher for certain depots) and extend their range. Communicating this success motivates other teams to adopt similar insight-led methods. The result will be a company able to constantly re-evaluate decisions based on new insights and adapt to whatever challenge the grocery sector throws at them.

For more insights on how your company can embrace data-driven decision-making, download our eBook.

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