“In God we trust; all others bring data” W. Edwards Deming

As much as God wants us to have faith in Him to grow our business, nevertheless, God works with data and He expects us to. In the book of Numbers, God told Moses to count the people of Israel, and we know God is omniscient — He knows all things. So why did He ask for what He already knew? I believe He was teaching us the importance of gathering data in order to make informed decisions. 

“Take a census of the whole congregation of Israel by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one.

Numbers 1:1-2

At that time, the people of Israel were about to possess the promised land. How would they have allocated the land fairly if they didn’t know the size of each families? There was a clear goal of why the data was needed. This brings us to the very important point that —the goal of the need for the data must be clearly established.

Imagine if there was no goal and the census taken was only focused on the total number of Israelites without accounting for their number per family. How could they use such data to allocate the land per family clan? Without grouping the data during the collection stage, it will be difficult to manipulate the data for other use case unless a new census is undertaken.

“The goal of the data determines how data is collected”

Therefore every data collected should have a goal in mind, for example, there were two censuses recorded by Moses, the goal of the first was different from the second.

The first census was taken in the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. The goal of this census was to know the number of fighting able men to join the army. 

“For the LORD had said to Moses: “ Do not number the tribe of Levi in the census with the other Israelites. Instead, you are to appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, all its furnishings, and everything in it.

Numbers 2:48-50

There was no point counting the Levites because they weren’t among the fighting men and they had other responsibilities the Lord had assigned to them.

While the second census as recorded in Numbers 26 was carried out 40 years after the first one. This time, the Levites were included in the counting, because the goal included all tribes of Israel;

The land is to be divided among the tribes as an inheritance, according to the number of names. Increase the inheritance for a large tribe and decrease it for a small one; each tribe is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those registered.

Numbers 26:53-54

Collecting data without a goal could be detrimental and a waste of business resources. Effective utilisation of business resources should be at the forefront of every growing business.

Let’s look at an example from the scriptures where data was collected with no reasonable goal. This brought disaster to the people of Isreal.

So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan and bring me a report, so that I may know their number.”

1Chronicles 21:2-3

David took the census of Israel without having a meaningful goal. And as people of God, everything they did has to be led by God. This means a business shouldn’t collect data from the it’s customers without their consent. Recently, we have read about how some organisations take their customers’ data without their consent and use it for their own gain. This should not be the case for a Christian-run organisation — the first priority is to serve the needs of the customers before any business gain.

Data without context is not knowledge

Data is gold but only when it is refined and useful. Gold dug out from the ground and kept without refining cannot be used. Digging out gold for the sake of it (Just as David’s motive of undertaking a census for the sake of it) is the same as misappropriation of resources that could be channelled to something of value to the organisation. Therefore, data is useful if you can derive value from it.

The important part is quickly and effectively turning data you collect into useful information that gets translated into Understanding, Knowledge and Insights.

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