Identity over Data
In a world obsessed with data, the most distinctive advantage comes from a deeper understanding of people. Many business leaders must embrace the soul-making process for themselves, their teams, and the entire organization.
The business landscape went through an obsession with big data a while back, and now it is buried neck-deep in the data capabilities of Large Language Models and Artificial intelligence and its endless application to quickly creating products (without souls). It is an experience economy we live in, so core identities must be established before crunching data and assuming it is a well-rounded view of how humans see the world.
A human-first approach will always be the key to unlocking maximum value. It allows for a greater understanding of the identity behind the data points. Business leaders today need to make a transformational leap to build more organically for the ecosystem- Moving from purely data strategies to identity-driven design strategies. This pivot empowers them to move from the 'What' and 'when' to 'why' and 'how'- where human resonance is established.
Data can provide valuable directional insights. But it fails to capture the entire essence of human experience and meaning. When people are reduced to data points in a spreadsheet, we lose sight of the nuances of identity that drive behavior. Providing superficial understandings and generic solutions optimized for hypothetical average users, not actual individuals- nobody wants that.
Harley-Davidson has a market capitalization value of $4.10 billion today, which is only possible because of an identity that was carefully crafted and cultivated. They could have focused on only providing well-engineered motorcycles for bikers, based on data points. Still, they went far beyond to tap into identity expressions of freedom, adventure, and rebellion. Harleys have never been about functional provision for transportation but an identity.
To build the iconic and distinctive brands of the future, leaders must ask simple but critical questions that get them to their intrinsic motivations;
- Why do we exist?
- Why are these our values?
- How do we represent a greater purpose?
This self-discovery process allows authentic connection with self and target customers during product development. Indeed, Identity-driven designs are never limited to quantitative data analysis; it values qualitative insight infused with the lived realities of people.
Data can guide us to where people are, but understanding identity will reveal why they are there, what they seek, and how they relate to the world. Business leaders have to intertwine identity with data to unlock the potential that creates brands that do not just compete but truly connect.
Empathic-driven methods like ethnography, journaling, and interviews allow for more nuanced identity exploration. These are most of our approaches at a small studio; using our trademarked Identity Architecture Framework, we build an identity narrative for our partners, which informs all of our Design work.
The future belongs to businesses that recognize this distinction.