Does your organisation make decisions based on art or science?

Peter Lunio explains why successful social housing organisations should be considering data-driven decision-making alongside traditional approaches.

Peter Lunio writes as Managing Partner at Insight with Purpose, a social housing predictive analytics consultancy.

Peter Lunio writes as Managing Partner at Insight with Purpose, a social housing predictive analytics consultancy.

17 June 2019

Gus Lobel, the storied baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves, portrayed with typical intransigence by Clint Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve, doesn’t like statistics. The general thrust of the film is that identifying talent is an art, and statistics will never match the experience and intuition of a talented scout. It is the traditionalist's rebuttal to Moneyball, the film documenting the Oakland Athletics’ success in adopting an exclusively data-driven approach to player recruitment.

In their respective portrayals of what works in professional sport, both films occupy extremes on the spectrum of making data-driven decisions. In taking opposite sides of the argument, however, they are suggesting that organisations must make a choice. Art or science? Picasso or Pythagoras?

What the sector is doing

At Insight with Purpose, we recently conducted a survey on the use of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in the social housing sector. We wanted to understand to what extent data is driving executive decision-making in the sector.

In response to our question ‘How would your association best describe the way you make executive decisions?’, worryingly, almost a quarter of respondents stated that their decisions are rarely data-driven.

Conversely, when we asked the question, ‘When making strategic decisions what do you mostly rely on?’, 47% said they rely on experience and intuition, which seems to contradict the previous question. This creates a confusing picture as to whether decisions in the sector are data-driven.

A balanced approach is key

In social housing, it is our experience that those organisations that choose to adopt the positive aspects of each approach, and commit to embedding this into their decision-making processes, tend to be more successful. They recognise the value in making expert, subjective assessments of performance, investment decisions, tenant satisfaction strategies, and so on.

But they also recognise the limitations of this approach. Whether it be asset coverage or assessment bias, smart organisations are finding effective, data-driven approaches to plug these gaps. Our Strategic Performance Insights Model is helping many associations gain access to insights that are typically outside of the scope of their finance and business intelligence networks.  

But being successful on a sustainable basis requires more than simply taking out a subscription to a smart product. Access is rarely a source of competitive advantage – the key is to make that access count by changing the way that the organisation as a whole thinks.

If the boardroom won’t make a performance or investment decision without both an expert assessment from their executives, and statistical analysis, art and science will quickly become key to how the organisation makes decisions going forward.

Those associations with the discipline to make these changes stick will ultimately succeed. And it won’t be due to solely to art or science. It will be down to both.

So, does your organisation use art or science in its decision making?


Peter Lunio writes as Managing Partner at Insight with Purpose, a social housing predictive analytics consultancy. He is also a Board Member at EPIC Housing.

Read more about the Insight with Purpose survey on the implementation of analytics in the sector.

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