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Gut Instinct: Big Data’s Missing Ingredient

Althea Chang
Big Data Download
Gut Instinct: Big Data’s Missing Ingredient

Without a dose of intuition, big data can actually be bad for businesses, according to the authors of a new book released last week.

In fact, if companies rely on big data alone to increase efficiency, they run the risk of cutting out the creative mojo that holds productive teams together, said NBC News columnist Bob Sullivan and mathematics professor Hugh Thompson, authors of "The Plateau Effect: Getting From Stuck to Success."

"Judgment is a muscle ... and if you start to rely too much on spreadsheets and data, you're going to lose that muscle and make some pretty bad choices," said Sullivan on "Big Data Download." "A lot of people who are getting into this business hire young, clever, fast-talking spreadsheet wielders, and it's really important to remember that just like photographs can lie even though they're very convincing, statistics and spreadsheets lie too."

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But cutting costs solely based on the results of big data analytics can potentially lead to companies inadvertently reducing that sometimes elusive but vital work ingredient: team chemistry, Thompson said.

"You fire somebody in the company because you're trying to streamline the company, and what doesn't show up on the spreadsheet is that this is the person that constantly encourages everybody else, and when they leave or get fired, they take a bunch of other people with them," he said.

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By its nature, big data is a massive collection of unstructured information, and since analytics are imperfect, companies shouldn't rely on data alone, the authors said.

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