data-driven leader

Many companies, even in this increasingly data-driven marketplace, still unfortunately succumb from time to time to what we call the “HiPPO Syndrome” (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), allowing decisions to be made according to highest ranking stakeholder’s experience rather than the data.

So we have to ask: do you suffer from HiPPO syndrome?

Symptoms include:

  • resistance to adopting a testing-driven methodology
  • chronic decision-making based solely on previous experience
  • a pathological unwillingness to take surprising data seriously
  • lethargy, associated with a lack of eagerness to experiment

If these symptoms sound familiar, you might be one of the many sufferers of HiPPO syndrome. But don’t worry, Optimizely wants to help! The below questionnaire will help you self-diagnose, which is the first step in the healing process.


Answer true or false for the 14 questions below. Count the number of true answers to calculate your score.

1. __ True or False? I can quantify how and why my customers churn.

2. __ True or False? I ask questions like, “What do the data tell us?”discussing design, strategy, or other decisions about creative.

3. __ True or False? I know the conversion rates for my customers by marketing channel

4. __ True or False? I prioritize investment in customer acquisition channel by ROI.

5. __ True or False? I have calculated the lifetime value of my customers.

6. __ True or False? I have invested in maintaining the quality of the data my team / company collects.

7 .__ True or False? I value transparency at every level of my company.

8. __ True or False? I use reporting from my internal systems to make projections about team and product performance at my company.

9. __ True or False? I am aware of the current conversion rates on my website.

10. __ True or False? I regularly report on key performance metrics with my team.

11. __ True or False? I feel like I must understand the business impact (ROI) of the projects I am working on.

12. __ True or False? Uncertainty does not intimidate me.

13. __ True or False? I learn from my mistakes.

14. __ True or False? I never make a business decision based on intuition alone.

Download the quiz as a PDF.

Score your quiz: Count the number of “true” responses. Which are you?

0-5: Intuition Indecision. You’ve grown accustomed to making decisions with a handful of people in the room, deliberating back and forth over which changes will be beneficial to to goal at hand (if there is one). Start moving your company towards a more data-focused mindset by reading up on CRO terms and ideas, and by outlining a funnel on your site with corresponding conversion numbers.

6-10: Bits, Fits and Starts. You and your team members use data points sporadically to help support big decisions, but the day-to-day decisions are left up to intuition. Start to bring data points into weekly meetings, or try a simple A/B test on a piece of marketing collateral (like an email) to demonstrate the power of testing different variations.

11-14: Data Dynamo. Score! You’re in the habit of using data to inform decisions large and small. You can continue to improve your data mindset by spreading the data craze amongst other members of your team—try to enable other testers within your organization, and use optimization to inform larger projects, like a website redesign.

Curious about what data driven leadership looks like in practice? Our CEO and founder, Dan Siroker, explains:

“During my first year working at Google, I learned an important lesson about experimentation when my mentor explained how I could convince my boss’s boss to let me try something. Even at a fairly data-driven company like Google it was hard to convince the higher-ups to do something potentially risky or radical. The key phrase in receiving this higher-up’s blessing, my mentor explained, was to say, ‘Let’s just run an experiment.’ In that context, the idea became an irresistible investigation into whether it would be worth their time and money—not a hard-and-fast decision of whether to make a permanent change.”