Monday, December 13, 2010

HiPPO: Wrong Advice That Will Get You In Trouble

HiPPO is an overly used in the web analytics community to make the web analysts feel good. But this term, in my opinion, does more harm than good to you.

Though I meant to write this post a long time ago, today a post by Steve Jackson - HiPPO could be your best friend finally prompted me to write it.

For those how don’t know, HiPPO is a term used to describe the opinion of the Highest Paid Person (HiPP) i.e. Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. This terms basically says that the person who gets paid the most (it assumes that this person is also the highest authority position) will make decisions that are not based on any facts but rather based on his/her gut feel. As a result his/her opinions are generally wrong. Really? Do you really think that they got into their position by giving wrong opinions?

Some experts even encourage analysts to publicly embarrass HIPPOs by proving them wrong? Really? How do you think it is going to help you? Will you have a job tomorrow?

As an analyst, your job is to help your organization make better and smarter decision by using the information you gain from the data. How is calling Highest Paid Person a HiPPO or embarrassing your boss in public going to help it?

To make your point and get someone to listen to you, you have to make friends and not enemies. Just thinking that all the opinions expressed by the HiPP are wrong and not based on fact will automatically put you in either a defensive or an offensive mode instead of a collaborative mode. You need collaboration to succeed. Web analytics is still not integrated into business optimization process and the wrong attitude towards HiPPO will hinder it further.

Think about this, if you are an analyst attacking a HiPP in the room, who do you think will win at end?

Thoughts? Comments?

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  1. Agree. Someone doesn't get to be a "highest paid person" by being a complete idiot, and attempting to belittle them makes you one. It's possible that the HiPP isn't using data the way they could to make better decisions, but that's something you deal with (over time!) by proving the value of data and insights. Think of the flip side: would you trust the HiPP's opinion with zero evidence that they're right? No? Then they probably won't trust your data until you (and it) prove they should. This isn't a quick or easy process, but if you allow the time, data + smart people = MUCH better decisions than one or the other alone.

  2. Anil you are right when you say that HiPP have not reached the position they are at if they were really that stupid. But I think the term was coined for those people who are in such position and are not open to analysis and new ideas. The term does not generalize every person in higher position.

  3. Michael Bain10:22 AM

    I disagree, somewhat. I go back to the original intent rather than the current trend. I do agree that good analysis should communicate the facts to the "decision makers" so that good decisions will be made. But, that's not the HIPPO.

    Tbe HIPPO is a caricature used to illustrate a cultural point about the power of good data analysis:
    (1) good analysis should be democratic,
    (2) facts don't change based on one's position of power, and
    (3) those who are not wise enough to use good analysis to guide their decisions are fools.

    It's also the basis of a cautionary tale. If you're going to disagree with intelligent criticism or analysis because it comes from a VP you're as a big fool as the HIPPO in the story.

  4. Ankit,
    We won't know why the term was coined for sure unless the person who coined the terms responds to this post. The reality is that terms like these put analysts in defensive or offensive mode, which is not good for anybody.
    Forget the term, weather it is highest paid person or lowest paid person you have to be able to convince the other stakeholders and that is part of your job. Calling someone a HiPPO does not work.


I would like to hear your comments and questions.