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Critical Thinking series: False Causes

Updated: Feb 23


Perhaps most fundamentally, market research is in the business of drawing connections. We examine the data and look for patterns, and if we find a connection, we then look for causality. Something important happened in the market, and sales are way up - What caused this shift? Is it within our control? Can we engineer the conditions that will bring about success for our business?


The problem is that a lot of the time, we get the cause and effect wrong. In a certain sense, human beings have an overactive sensor for assigning causality - Our unique knack for identifying patterns in our environment is what has led to so much of our evolutionary success as an organism. However, the modern environment is chock full of abstract societal and technological challenges, and has more immediately accessible information than ever before.


It goes without saying that this age we live in is quite a bit more complex than life on the savannah. As a result, sometimes we see cause and effect relationships that just ‘make sense,’ that have a perfect, tidy story, and yet we are utterly wrong in our assessment. In business, this can mislead us much to our detriment, and waste time, money, and jeopardize our competitiveness in the marketplace. Just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it is true.


This is where sound principles of research methodology come in. To sift through all of the complex information in our modern age and to give ourselves the best chance at getting cause and effect relationships right, we use sophisticated tools and methods. Of equal importance, we carry with us the understanding that a lot of the time the right connections in data can be messy, and that there is always, always, the possibility that we are wrong. However, as analysts, we do everything within our power to make sure that that possibility is as small as possible.


At Advantage Research, we have decades of experience in using the tools and methods that have helped our clients identify cause and effect relationships in the market. Get in touch today to get the conversation started!


These explorations are inspired by School of Thought's Critical Thinking card decks - check out their website for more information.

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