Bad Big Data – Is it impacting critical thinking? Are we forgetting the question?

by Donna Payton, (former) Program Manager at HumanTouch, LLC

Knowledge is power.

— Sir Francis Bacon

Information and the more you have of it can lead to stronger and smarter decision making.  However, are we asking good questions to minimize what we need to analyze and is too much of a “big” thing detrimental to critical thinking?

I grew up in a generation where you grabbed an encyclopedia (the ultimate “authoritative source” of our generation) and found the ultimate truth - or at a minimum, I was able to get a passing grade on my school paper.  We did not have quick access to many alternatives or comparative data.

Fast forward to 2017; with some fundamental (and typically free) tools, gaining access to data today – and “a lot” of it – for any subject is quite simple.  We all agree, the amount of information available to an individual or an organization is vast.  We use internet search tools to drill down into detailed pieces of information to find answers to simple and complicated questions.  We can ask Siri “what is one plus one?” and returned is 145,000,000 references. 

We know, based on internet search algorithms, the most popular “hits” are in the first couple of pages and generally considered qualified “authoritative sources.”   Consider the question “what are the best parks in Virginia?”  Results provide 1,650,000 instances, but if what you really were looking for is a park with butterfly farms – 43,500 instances.  You have asked a much better question, reducing the amount of data required to be analyzed in order to make a sound, strong qualified decision.  Much more available data than the old encyclopedia. Is this too much data? Or do we just discard all but the top hits to make a decision on options of parks in Virginia with butterfly farms?

Consider the commerce question, “How do I increase productivity, on-time delivery, while providing value, increasing performance, and expanding results?”  53,100,000 results – the answer has to be in there somewhere, yes?  This isn’t a new business question – there are generations of models.

To take into account over fifty-three million sources, reviewing 125 a day, I should have the holy grail answer on how to “increase productivity, on-time delivery, provide value, increase performance, and expand results” in about 1,162 years. 

Ask a better question because you don’t want to evaluate “all” business, only those related to yours.  Qualifying the same question with a more distinct value, such as “warehousing”, and the results have been narrowed to 3,140,000 sources – about 68.5 years.  I guess you could say that is achievable in a lifetime but it is well beyond a business benefitting from the answer and I’m quite certain the doors closed a long, long, long time ago. 

No one expects to go through every piece of source data in the world to make decisions.  However, there is always a fear that data will be discounted as part of the analysis.  Sophisticated business intelligence (BI) tools help qualify the type of source data that is collected, aggregated and reported.  Since BI generally collects and aggregates information from within a data warehouse, we assume the “authoritative source” of information that has been input is complete and accurate.  BI tools have been slow to implement due to factors such as:

  • Being complicated to use
  • Relying on a few experts to perform reporting functions
  • Challenges with pulling data across many systems within which information is stored
  • Challenges with accessing archived data that hasn’t followed the evolving formatting conventions
  • Growing costs associated to reporting and maintenance fees

Big data is not the Big Bad Wolf.  A vast amount of information and the organization of that data always starts with “asking a good question.”  This provides smaller, more succinct set of results that can be analyzed from which to draw conclusions.  There is also the task of overcoming the bias we have adopted that numbers and figures are exact, hence the “need to apply critical thought.” 
HumanTouch, LLC offers low cost, configurable Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) for decision-makers at all levels of your organization - executives, project managers, and teams to make decisions based on real-time, integrated information.  Spend more of your time critically thinking with the right data at the start instead of wasting your time trying to find the right data in the first place.  Contact us today to learn more about our time-saving cloud solutions.  

Follow Us on Social Networks!

Latest News and Insights
straight to your inbox!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.