The phrase “Big Data” seems to have caught fire. Big data is all about the ability to collect enormous amounts of stuff (no news there then!).
You can collect terabytes of data about even the most banal things. For instance, there are 400 tweets a second about YouTube content; over 500 hours of YouTube content is watched every minute…or something like that.
Now companies have the ability to collect an enormous quantity of data about their customers and use that data to segment, cluster, target, personalise and then analyse.
I recently heard, for instance, that you can tell how good of a driver a person is by how often they use a cash point. So there is an interesting need for insurance companies to collect data about cash point usage.
I know, it’s crazy.
Here’s an even better and simpler example. There is a good case for insurance companies to connect with the people they insure on Facebook. Why? Well let’s just say someone has a whiplash claim and then goes horse riding, well it can’t be that bad. And what about the whiplash claimant caught sky-diving. Clever!
OK, so the basic thesis is that big data is a good idea.
It sells boxes and software, so it’s good for computer companies.
BUT, and it’s a massive but… if big data is cold and lifeless…? It is data about people, it is not people. At the core of any big data repository there has to be a vision, a strategy and an overarching dramatic difference between one company and another. The problem with statistics is that they tend to normalise people towards the centre. Good business, great business is about that thing that makes you different from everyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, data can help you support that difference, that’s what we do here at Consumer Intelligence. We have different data and we see the world differently. But the data does not and will not drive us.
More substantially, the data must not drive us or you in your business. When business is being run by the numbers, then it stops being run from the heart. Roadmaps are crucial because you cannot arrive at your destination without them. KPIs are critical because they help you work out where you are on the journey. But they are not the journey and they are not the destination.
One other thing; whilst you have me in rant mode. There is a whole new opportunity in all of this. There are very, very few people that can look at lots of data and make it simple.
I have this theory that a human absorbs stuff better when it’s simple. But the skill of taking the complex and making it simple, interesting, engaging, exciting and real is a very fine art. Very fine. And it is not being taught, by anyone anywhere.
If there was a degree in synthesising complicated stuff into simple stuff, the students leaving that degree would be priceless.
Ian Hughes is the CEO of Consumer Intelligence, a market research company that is dedicated to helping its customers make intelligent decisions using the best possible insight.