If you look at the top-performing companies, there are strong hints that evidence-based management is fundamental to their high ranking. A few examples: Yahoo runs many experiments a day in which its Web site design is subtly varied to see which approach attracts the most visitors and purchases; QVC’s television shopping channel analyzes real-time data to determine the presentation and pitch for specific products; and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the largest U.S. automobile rental company, sends out more than 100,000 surveys per month to monitor customer service at its outlets.

From our research, we are convinced that when companies base decisions on evidence, they enjoy a competitive advantage. And even when little or no data is available, there are things executives can do that allow them to rely more on evidence and logic and less on guesswork, fear, faith, or hope. For example, qualitative data, such as that gathered on field trips to retail sites for the purpose of testing existing assumptions, can be an extremely powerful form of useful evidence for quick analysis.

By emphasizing the importance of evidence and knowledge, we do not mean to dismiss the value of intuition and innovation. But even hunches, fresh ideas, and inventions should be measured against logical and empirical benchmarks to determine whether they are efficacious ideas or just momentarily exciting thoughts better off abandoned.

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