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PBM Research

The Importance of Human Insights in the Face of Big Data

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In 1997, chess grand master Garry Kasparov lost to IBM’s Deep Blue computer system. Distraught over the loss, Kasparov has become a vocal proponent of the power that can result from combining computers with humans. He has even stated that an average chess player could probably become a champion if teamed up with a computer.

After reading this story, I started thinking about the relationship between humans and data today. Over the last twenty years since Kasparov lost to the IBM computer, technological advancements have led to the rise of big data. Big data has been called the “global nervous system of our world today”. Everything, it seems, can be quantified and broken down by computers, leading to unprecedented insights.

Almost all successful companies today are leveraging data to some extent. A recent analysis from researchers at Forrester found that 74% of firms want to be data-driven, but only 29% are successful at connecting analytics to action.

These findings make it clear that companies aren’t always good at utilizing the data they have. In many cases, it’s probably not that a company or institution needs more data, but instead needs a better system driven by humans that is designed to interpret data and connect it to meaningful action for the business. After all, what good are numbers if there’s no one around to analyze and apply them?

My former boss was fond of saying “a trained monkey couldn’t do this part” and what she meant was that as powerful as technology and data has become, humans are still irreplaceable when it comes to understanding what data is telling us and how we can apply it.