Is Not Knowing How to Use Big Data a Problem? or Symptom? – Part 1/3

A 3-part Series on Why Big Data is Wagging the HR Dog

About The HRIS World® HR Dog Series

All Revved Up – and No Place to Go!

Questions determine our direction – ask the wrong question or even the wrong type of question, we could end up with an answer that may feel good, may look good, but provide an answer that gives us a direction that proves to be ineffective nor efficient in the long run.

Learning to ask good questions versus the right questions is something with which many struggle.

There is also the matter of knowing what to do with what you have, least you have something that will only be a burden and not an asset.

Personal example: when I first knew I wanted to learn to drive…

  • I had a very positive attitude about learning to drive a car
  • I knew it would be a useful tool in my life
  • I knew absolutely nothing about how to drive nor how to take care of a car

Buying a car before I had a license meant I would be all revved up and no place to go…

One thing that cannot be argued when it comes to goals – the clearer our goals, the greater our confidence as well as our success.

Learn to Ask the Right Questions

Let’s get back to Big Data…

A recent global survey sponsored by Platfora and performed by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) questioned 395 C-level executives from 18 different industries and is balanced across Asia-Pacific (34%), North America (27%), Western Europe (26%) and the rest of the world (13%).

Here are some of the key findings in that study…

CEOs have the most positive overall attitudes about big data according to survey respondents, with 76% rating their CEO’s views as positive or very positive on the subject, closely followed by CIOs (72%) and CMOs (67%)

48% of executives believe big data to be a useful tool

Lack of understanding about how to use big data stands in the way of implementation…

Does that last key finding sound like everyone is asking the right questions? Or even why they are wanting what they want?

Seriously, anytime any of us have asked the right question, anytime any of us have provided a clear vision of our goals, everyone gets it that they are on the right track…

Does this last key finding really speak to this?…

When taken into context, the last key finding is also indicative of the process we are all going through when any new technology arrives that will disrupt everything we already do and know.

A quick read of the Industrial Revolution through several online sources will show the same parallels, though on a much longer timeline…

Most people had a positive overall attitude about the new technology

Many believed the new technology would be a useful tool

Lack of understanding about how to use the new technology stood in the way of implementation for most

(sample sources: wikipedia, New World Encyclopedia,

Detecting a pattern here?

Ignoring, Listening, Believing

Our successes are determined by what we are willing to ignore, as well as what failures we will ignore (as opposed to learning from them).

Ignore the wrong question or not even think of the right question, and/or implement the wrong idea can end a career, or at best result in a lateral or demotion.

If you are a business owner, that lost business will take a while to return to prior levels.

Well, the first step towards any success is the always rooted in the willingness to listen – but to whom?

Those that impart knowledge are also capable of imparting error, yes?

Qualifying who we listen to is important. What we hear repeatedly we eventually believe – and there has been a lot of concepts, ideas and thoughts repeatedly shared nearly everywhere.

So what does one do when there are so many beliefs, thoughts, suggestions as to what will work?

More on this during this series….

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Didn’t plan this with David D’Souza and the timing is magnificent if anything…

David is excellent at relating a problem to movies, events, past experiences we all can relate to — it is a gift he has with which he does extremely well.

He talks about not asking questions but asking the right questions…

He talks about the lack of understanding about how to use the new technology standing in the way of implementation…

And he does this through the Jurassic Park Problem

The Jurassic Park Problem is one of his favorite go-to explanations.

As the plot unfolds during the movie, with the imminent release of Jurassic World and with the marketing conversation carrying on, Dr. Ian Goldblum (Jeff GoldBlum) finally seems slightly topical rather than horribly out of date.

David most often employs it to question HR’s positigo-toround analytics and big data – although it probably applies to most people’s use of technology…. something I will be discussing in the coming months in future content…

Let David continue his explanation, he says this part better than me — actually, better than most people can…

“The Jurassic Park Problem is one of my favourite go to explanations. Now, with the imminent release of Jurassic World, I finally seem slightly topical rather than horribly out of date. I most often employ it to question HR’s positions around analytics and big data – although it probably applies to most people’s use of technology.

“It’s actually a two-part issue – the first part being the context and the second part being the problem.

“The context.

“Jon Hammond builds a theme park on an island that is full of dinosaurs (he nabbed their DNA from resin). For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call this Jurassic Park. He invites a select group of people to come to the island in advance of its opening. These include (quite sensibly) a hunter and some experts in dinosaurs. He also invites Ian Malcolm, a rock star mathematician who is an expert in chaos theory. This, I will concede, is a less obvious choice. If you read the book of Jurassic Park the concept of chaos theory is actually a central theme.

“In the film Malcolm is played by Jeff Goldblum and is all ‘charismatic’. When asked to comment on the park he say’s this

“Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox”

“The rapid commercialisation of new technology and the lack of understanding of the hard work and principles it is built upon combine to form a flurry of ill thought out activity. Code is built on code and then given a nice front end. It isn’t necessarily that it is wrong… more than the lack of reflection and effort involved mean that we accept an easy solution without understanding the workings of it.

“We stand apart from, and yet reliant upon, complex systems. That means that when systems fail we may not even notice. Matt Buckland wrote an excellent piece on the fad of the magical algorithm here. If you don’t believe in magic then be enquiring enough to understand how the magician pulls off his tricks.

“The problem

“your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”.

“The problem in our pursuit of the new is that we often pursue functionality over ethics. For instance our rush towards quantification of individuals (heart rate, steps, productivity, performance) ignores the research we already have about people and their desire i) not to be reduced to numbers ii) to have a sense of  identity and agency outside of a system iii) to feel as though they have a high level of self-determinism/autonomy.

“There is a sacrifice and benefit to every piece of information we give to a system – individuals and organisations will have different views on how justifiable that sacrifice is and how beneficial it is. If I offer a leader more information about his team he may naturally think that is a good thing, but for the individuals, it may be a differing dynamic.

“As organisations rush to map as much of their employees’ lives and interactions as possible (through wearable tech, social network monitoring, and other means) they see an opportunity for control and insight that is at once beguiling through one lens and frightening through another.

“It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do this activity – but to pause long enough to genuinely consider whether we should be doing it seems the lowest possible ethical requirement of a profession that is supposed to be all about people.”

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