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Big Data and… Intuition?


Even though many people may consider this association unthinkable, Tom Davenport in an article in the Harvard Business Review reflects on how the mayor level of analysis and spontaneity are interlaced.

Intuition corresponds to this latter aspect, being it a perception that breaks into consciousness without analysis intervention, it simply emerges and is conscious. This seems to be opposed to the corporate thinking style, where conversations about utilities, profitability and optimization are heard.

However, Davenport distances us from the restricted interpretation bringing the example of the proposal of a hypothesis, which is no more than an intuition about something happening in the world of data. It is well known that the hypothesis has to be ascertained through a specific methodology, which would prove it either right or wrong.

Likewise, we realize that many campaigns arranged at the call centers, so as the huge deals of many companies, have been driven by somebody’s intuition who believed in them; and as happens with the hypotheses, it is necessary to ascertain those campaigns and deals with analytic data.

However amazing it may seem, only a bunch of companies carry out a rigorous analytical study to develop new business. The choice of a target domain is usually based on the directive’s intuition.

Let us take a step further towards Big Data world in which Linkedin is one of the most important players. One of the most successful data products of this campaign, (PYMK) “people you may know”, was developed by Jonathan Goldman (now at Intuit).

Goldman –quite rightly- created it following the intuition that the users would be interested in the contents their old class mates and colleagues have uploaded to the web. Later, in an interview, he told that he was “playing with ideas” about how to help people build their networks, which certainly sounds like an intuitive process.

What does all that has been said show us? It tells us that any analysis process, either a call center campaign management or Big Data administration, requires the existence of “soft elements”, namely intuition. Not only to draw its course, but because this is inherent in the creative processes and is not reduced to activities like brainstorming.

Thus, without lessening the importance of data, its measurement and its verification, we shouldn’t leave aside intuition, a human faculty which matched with analysis ability allows us to be more creative, and so, to be better.

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Written by Elsa Basile. Learning Goals, Issues Debates, Case Studies on Human Capital, Technology, Operations and Management