Blinded by Command-Line Arrogance
Updated: Jan 24
A problem brewing is within the data and analytics community called Command-Line Arrogance (CLA). Perhaps you’ve seen it in action. An analyst pulls up the command-line on their computer, types some unreadable code, and then proceeds to belittle the audience with their ‘brilliant’ analysis that only they can understand. There is this belief that a certain flavor of computer coding skills is an indicator of an admirable analyst. But this really only blinds everyone involved from making better decisions.
The first to be blinded are executives and decision-makers. They walk away feeling baffled about what had just happened and what to do about it. They might respond by ignoring the analysis and being self-assured in the ways things have been for years. You’ll hear them go on about the importance of gut decisions. Or, they might respond with curiosity because there must be something to this data thing. However, they just experienced a show of technical wizardry designed to show off and keep people from learning. Many may never get to a place of understanding what is possible. Either way, the value of data and analytics is diminished. No one in the organization is making better decisions when CLA gets in the way.
The next group of people blinded are other analysts. A few of them will follow along with the presentation of technical expertise, but many will not. Do not forget that analytics goes well beyond analytics professionals. Everybody in an organization that makes decisions is an analyst. They just don’t know it or believe it. A show of CLA isolates many of these people. They’ll believe that they don’t have the training, comfort, or skill to do whatever they just witnessed. But command-line and related technical expertise are far from analytics success and what it means to be an analyst. I’ve seen many people who are amazing analysts who would never call themselves analysts or are too afraid to because of CLA. The fastest way to maximize the value of data and analytics within an organization is for everyone to believe that they are an analyst. CLA is one of the biggest barriers to analytics success.
Finally, CLA blinds the person doing it. Someone exhibiting CLA behavior will often be frustrated as to why they are having so little of an impact on the organization. They’ll say things like the leaders don’t get it or this place doesn’t value me. This is oddly right, but they are blinded to reason why this is: themselves. It is the CLA approach that prevents them from making a difference.
CLA needs to stop. If you are an analyst, then consider whether CLA is support you and the analytics community you work within. If you are someone who doesn’t think of yourself as an analyst, then don’t get discouraged by CLA moments. There are endless ways to be an analyst. Finally, if you are a leader, executive, or decision-maker, don’t give up on data and analytics. When you encounter CLA, point it out with kindness, ask clarifying questions, and steer the analyst towards the path of how they can make a greater impact.