Data, analytics and Leadership : Big Data kills the pilot?

I was at the P&G Alumni Network Global meeting in Geneva earlier in 2013, talking about “Big Data – Big Choices“.

To repeat part of a previous post:

“To look at this another way, I offered this summary.

Tiny Data + Unstructured Data = Big Data

Tiny Data means data from a single source in a structured format which, whilst it may in a huge quantity, is actually limited in its complexity.

Unstructured Data means exactly that – no fixed database format or coherent structure. Think of messages sent on Twitter, images uploaded to the web, Facebook posts and likes, phone calls, customer service calls and so on.

“Big Data” combines the two. Only now are technologies becoming available to combine and make sense of these different sources – and most importantly turn the analytical results into useful insight and action plans.

I gave the example of looking at someone’s Facebook timeline, and noting that they tend to like wearing blue but never orange. If you are a clothing manufacturer, and knew that fact, wouldn’t that help you make more appropriate offers to that potential customer? And if you could match this insight against the customer’s purchase records over time, wouldn’t that give a richer insight into their behaviour?”

I also spent time with good friend Chris Meyer. He had talked at the event on some of the key points from his latest book “Standing on the Sun“, around the major changes facing capitalism.

We were talking about the leadership changes at P&G in the past couple of days, and were debating the role of the leader. The link by the way is to an HBR blog post featuring Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

Chris made a great point.

Big Data and its application will increasingly allow us to automate processes (and even decision systems) in organisations. Today, the leader is effectively the pilot of an organization, steering it in a certain direction, and making changes as needed. The pilot drives the decision processes. But in the world of Big Data, what’s the role of the pilot when decision processes are automated?

So, Chris, thanks for the food for thought!

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