BUSINESS TIMES – Commentary: THE immensity of Big Data is undeniable. When almost everything we do leaves a digital trace, our ability to capture, store and analyse data seems almost infinite. We generate more than 2.5 billion gigabytes of data each day, which, thanks to rapidly evolving data processing techniques, is providing businesses with a way to stay more agile by answering questions that were previously considered beyond our reach, using analytics to create valuable insights to facilitate intelligent decision-making.
Given our rapidly-evolving ability to consolidate, structure and extract valuable actionable insight from enormous data sets, it is unsurprising that data has surpassed oil as the most valuable resource in the world, with worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics expected to climb to $203 billion by 2020.
Welcome to the Big Data Ecosystem – the buzziest of buzz words that is reportedly reshaping the world as we know it, transforming businesses and the economy, and impacting our lives, from the way we shop or find a job, to the way we listen to music or predict an earthquake.
Yet despite being touted as a panacea to cure all business woes, with so many businesses in Asia and across the wider globe rushing in with lofty investments in Big Data infrastructure, few businesses are reporting tangible ROI or success in making Big Data profitable. Big Data is still a work in progress.
Truth is, data may be an asset, but without the ability to put it to good use, it’s worth very little. So what are we missing?
Firstly, Big Data is not a magic bullet. By itself it does not hold the answer to business transformation or the predicting what happens next. Nokia found this out, when they fell off a cliff after Big Data told them that affordable smartphones were not going to be the next big thing. How wrong they were. Big Data predicted a huge electoral win for Hillary Clinton. How wrong that was. The future is unpredictable. History can repeat itself, but this is not a given, which can be a challenge for even the most robust algorithm to determine.
Humans’ Innate Ingenuity
Human beings are, by their very nature, irrational, emotional and impulsive. This characteristic underpins judgement and decision-making way beyond machine calculation and might be the reason that Big Data can sometimes yields results which don’t chime with what we know to be true in the real world.
The human ability to base decisions on a certain innate ingenuity should not be overlooked. There’s a reason that IBM uses Big Data to provide shortlists of suitable candidates for roles, but final decisions are based upon face-to-face meetings and the gut feeling of the interviewer to determine which the best fit for the organisation will be. It is the difference between instinct and analytical thinking, and at the same time, I propose that it will be the combination of these two elements that will bring about the ROI and impact that all CEOs hope to reap from their Big Data investments.
This is what I call “Creative Intelligence”, the element which is the missing link in the Big Data conundrum and the next step in our technological evolution.
While machines can consolidate vast amounts of data into readable and actionable information, point out patterns and indicate trends, they cannot ask the questions in the first place, nor suggest how we might use the findings in a creative way to create the value we hope to see. This is our role – the uniquely human element that turns data points into meaningful, actionable information.
The equation then is simple: Artificial Intelligence + Human Intelligence = Creative Intelligence.
It is only by adopting a creatively intelligent approach to Big Data that we can start to see the promised returns. In every instance, what happens before the machines go to work is just as important as what happens after. There is no point in churning out data for the sake of it. There needs to be purpose to it and this involves an empathetic human view of commerce and the wider world around us. How can we enable and enhance? How can we improve? How can we prevent? Sure, we can find stuff through pattern recognition and trend reporting, but the real improvements in the life of customers comes from human intervention into real life issues, problems and possibilities.
Creative Intelligence is more than an approach. It is a culture. Big Data is all too often seen to fall under the purview of the IT team, when crucially, it should be driven by the C-Suite, with clear goals and an overarching vision in mind.
By the same token, the human intelligence used with the data are also crucially important and I predict that it will be those companies drawing on wider skills sets and schools of thought in their approach to data who will take the lead. Mathematicians, statisticians, and other scientific minds will always be integral to interpreting data, but this needs to be complemented by the humanities, from psychologists, sociologists and behaviouralists who can truly humanise the data by providing the human context, to artists and creatives who can visualize, communicate and generate ideas that yield business solutions, acceleration and transformation.
Creative Intelligence is the intersection where brains meet bits, and where empathy informs electrons. Creative Intelligence is a marriage – and what could be more human than this?
Regional President Asia
5 July 2018