In the Star Wars universe, there was a strong contrast between how the two opposing forces used data. The Empire had vast resources at its disposal, but ultimately failed to use its data effectively. The smaller, scrappier Rebel Alliance trusted in the data and applied it successfully to win its first major battle. Whether you’re a data padawan or jedi, what you do with your data will be a key to your company’s success.
It’s hard to believe my father took me to the first Star Wars movie 38 years ago in 1977. And now I get to enjoy the next round of “Star Wars” episodes with my own children. As part of my preparations for “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens”, I watched the first three films (Episodes IV-VI) with my children so they understand what happened in the preceding episodes. As I was watching the first movie (“Episode IV — A New Hope”), I was surprised to see how much data played a key role in the story. Princess Leia believed in the power of data to turn the tide of the Rebellion. When she arrived at the rebel base after being freed from the Imperial prison by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, she stated: “You must use the information in this R2 unit to help plan the attack. It is our only hope.” Data on the Death Star’s construction — not a geriatric Jedi Master — was what would save the day. The original “Star Wars” movie actually teaches us six valuable lessons about data. Here are some scenes that stood out to me and what lessons we can learn from them.
1. Recognize The Full Value Of Your Data
At the beginning of the movie, there’s a scene where a group of Imperial officers are debating the value of the technical data that was stolen by the Rebel Alliance.
Clearly, Admiral Motti didn’t appreciate the value of the data that fell into the Rebels’ hands. His organization was essentially hacked by the Rebels, and the Imperial officers dismissed what they could do with the data. Perhaps if they valued the data more, they would have had more security to protect it from falling into the hands of the Rebel Alliance in the first place. Maybe they might have analyzed their own technical data and discovered the weakness before the Rebels did. Your corporate data can be a competitive advantage for your business. Are you taking full advantage of your customer data and ensuring it won’t fall into the wrong hands?
2. Seek Context To Better Understand Your Data
When Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker head back to Luke’s farm, they come across the remains of several of dead Jawas. Initially, it looked like they were killed by the nomadic warriors known as the Sand People or Tusken Raiders.
Old Ben Kenobi had retired to the barren wastelands of Tatooine after the Clone Wars. He probably had many run-ins with the Sand People over the years. His background knowledge of the Sand People prevented him from being tricked by the Stormtroopers’ attempts at hiding their evil deeds. If content is king in marketing, context is king in analysis. Anyone analyzing your data needs to have adequate context on your business or else they’re going to miss the simple subtleties that can often make or break many analyses.
3. Make Precise Measurements & Calculations
When the Millennium Falcon was forced to flee Tatooine with Imperial starships in hot pursuit, Han Solo had plot a course to Alderaan in the ship’s navi-computer before jumping to light speed.
Han Solo stressed the importance of taking the necessary time and effort to calculate a safe path in hyperspace. Haphazardly jumping to light speed could cost the lives of the entire crew. You may not be plotting your next hyperspace jump across space, but your business may be increasingly depending on data to chart its course. If you fail to get the right data, remove the bad data, use outdated models, or perform careless analysis, the data could inadvertently steer your business into a black hole before you can course correct. Rushing to insights and decisions without a sound data foundation—which can take time to plan and maintain—will put your business at risk.
4. Plan What You’re Going To Track Or Measure
After Princess Leia and her rescuers escaped from the Death Star, she recognized their escape was far too easy.
Despite Han’s objections to the contrary, we find out that Darth Vader had indeed allowed them to escape.
Darth Vader understood the importance of tracking and collecting useful data. By allowing the Millennium Falcon to flee with the homing beacon, the Imperial forces were able to discover the true location of the Rebel base on the moon, Yavin IV. It was information they couldn’t coerce out of Princess Leia even as they were threatening to blow up her home world of Alderaan. Darth Vader knew you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Too often I hear of businesses that launch elaborate marketing campaigns or digital initiatives, but measurement ends up being a last-minute afterthought or even overlooked entirely. Planning and effort should go into what you’re going to measure so that you can understand what’s broken and improve your initiatives over time.
5. Hire Smart Analysts
There’s a scene where the Rebel pilots are being briefed on the difficult mission of destroying the Empire’s Death Star battle station.
The unsung hero in this dialogue is the analyst or team of analysts that were able to pinpoint the weakness in the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance would be in a world of hurt if their analysts hadn’t been able to identify a weak point in the Death Star’s defenses. All of the honors and glory went to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo for destroying the massive battle station, but the analyst team should have received gold medals at the medal ceremony too (along with Chewbacca). As your business increasingly relies on data, you will need to invest in the people who are going to extract value from your data, which means making investments in hiring the right talent and offering adequate training.
6. Use Data To Inform Decision-Making
As the squadrons of Rebel starfighters approached the Death Star, the Imperial forces had to decide how they would respond to the attack.
Rather than considering the insight provided by his subordinate, Governor Tarkin reacted with an ill-timed emotional outburst. With the lives of the estimated 1.7 million personnel at this command hanging in the balance, he was close-minded and failed to dig into the data. Tarkin could have asked for further clarification: “Based on your analysis, Commander, what’s the likelihood of the Rebel attack succeeding?” If the answer was 95 percent , he would have to issue the difficult but necessary evacuation order. Business owners who want to establish a data-driven culture must lead by example in using data to inform decisions and create an environment where subordinates can question actions if they bring supporting data.