Big Data Shockers: Not Big

September 14, 2015

I read “Big Data Doesn’t Exist.” Now “data” is plural, but why get involved in grammar. This is the mobile, thumb typing era.

The write up states:

I’ve found it’s a good rule of thumb to assume a company has one one-thousandth of the data they say they do.

Yep, the data perception anomaly is alive and well. The folks who have too much data are too busy as well. Many of the individuals with whom I come in contact have no time to think new thoughts, complete projects on time, return phone calls, or answer email. Quartz offers “We’re Not Actually That Busy, But We’re Great at Pretending We Are.”

The factors causing the razzle dazzled view of an organization’s data and busy-ness are similar. The inability to look at information or tasks from an informed vantage point creates uncertainty. The easiest way to escape criticism for a strategic failure is to embrace a crazy generalization and protest too much about work that must be completed.

Hence, there is a boom in time management and automatic scheduling. I hear, “My calendar is full.” No kidding. That tells me the person has abrogated responsibility.

The statement that “we have too much data” underscores the individual’s inability to think about information in a way that is helpful. The consequence is the mad dash to software that does the thinking for a professional. There are visualization tools. These make it easy to see what the data allegedly say.


Both the craziness about Big Data and the too much to do approach to work are cover ups.

The issue is rooted deep within many individuals who are unable to cope with the mundane activities of life in the 21st century. The fix is within individuals. Stated another way, there is no fix when there is little or no incentive or desire to take responsibility for work.

I asked a Kentucky Fried Chicken store clerk, “Why do I have to wait for the biscuits to be cooked before I can have two pieces of chicken for my beloved boxers?” The boxers don’t eat biscuits on my watch.

The answer, “That’s what I was told.” Judgment and the instinct to use common sense is absent in the executive suite just as it is at retail fast food outlets.

No sale. Many professionals want a short cut and no responsibility. That’s a mushy foundation for a digital work ethic. Analytics will miss this important nuance when it processes declining revenues.

Stephen E Arnold


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