“Big Data” Is OK, But Intuition Rules, OK?

I tend to be an early riser and this weekend was no exception.  In my usual quiet time in the morning, with coffee and Macbook in hand, I settle down in the kitchen, read the BBC News site, and generally see what’s going on in the world.

This weekend I stumbled upon a blog titled “Why Big Data Will Never Beat Business Intuition” and I have to say that quite simply, I agree.

I won’t recap the article for you, but needless to say, it makes a series of points to argue that we should take a little time to really think about how we use Big Data and it cautions us against blind interpretations without human intuition.

Let me add another example I’ve used in presentations over the last few weeks.  Analytics aren’t reserved for businesses or data scientists. We all use analytics everyday. My friend Donald MacCormick blogged on a great example last year when he used the BBC weather website as an example of an analytic, and again I agree.

But here’s the point – when I read the BBC weather website and it tells me the forecast for the day ahead, I don’t simply take it for granted. The first thing I’ll do is look out the window and ask myself if the weather looks like it’s supposed to. Quite often I’ll even open the door and really check how warm it is. That’s my human intuition telling me not to rely just on the data.

And that in a nutshell is why I think Tim Leberecht’s blog makes sense. And that’s why, when it comes to Big Data, I believe two things are critical – the discussion on the use case and application of the data, and the education of the people using it.

Of course, flexible, self-service, and real-time analytics are then needed to allow people to use their intuition in a natural way, as opposed to a machine-driven way, but it’s that intuition and education that really makes their application work.

This blog was first posted on the SAP Analytics Blog

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