Monday, November 21, 2016

One more for the lexicon: Curse of the First Model

This applies to a wide range of contexts, but, just to get the conversation started, let's say you're doing targeted marketing. You can come up with a fantastic mailing model, one that improves on the previous one in every conceivable way – – better response even if you mail somewhat deeper, more stable, and using data that are more reliable, cheaper, easier to work with – – and yet you will still get, at best, a lukewarm response from the executives. Invariably, you will be told something like this, "that's nice but we got so much more lift from the first model."

The trouble is that the improvement you see going from model to better model is almost always underwhelming compared to the improvement you see going from nothing to model. This curse can badly distort reputations and often leads to a kind of super Peter Principle where people are promoted to a level one step higher than their perceived level of competence which is much higher than their actual level of competence.

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