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Insight & Big Data

What’s in a word? Well lots, actually.

Once something is named it leans towards taking on the shape and associations of that name, even if clearly, as in the childrens’ confection ‘Space Dust’ that name stretches credibility. Kids didn’t care, they just thought it was a cool idea…

Now we are in the presence of another Cool Idea – from those same kids who bought Space Dust, now grown up. That idea is Big Data. You’ll have noticed that the first part of the name, BIG, is being interpreted and heralded not as LOTS (of data) but as IMPORTANT data.

I suggest that if you dig even a little bit below the surface, big data is the information age’s own version of BIG WILLY. If all the other guys have got big data are you gonna admit you haven’t?

My evidence? Have a look at the picture above, freely available on Google, home of big data. Isn’t that a guy pushing a woman down onto his BIG DATA? I bet if you invited BIG DATA affecianadoes to a Webinar, mostly guys would show up. After all, which gender is most worried about the size of its endowment?

Of course I’m just teasing: I’m not saying you can’t find insight in big data, but I am suggesting that size has its problems. The key problem is the sheer amount of data and the dissociation of it from people. Big data may be huge, but you won’t find many people there. The other thing that matters is who is looking at the data and what they are looking for.

Insight is seeing more accurately into the heart of a matter, in other words going within people’s internal landscapes to explore how things are connected, significant, meaningful etc. I do not agree with the bloke who wrote Insight’s Wikipedia entry suggesting that insight is new information. It is only when the world is viewed through new information and it changes how the world occurs that the information is insightful.

My nightmare is that hundreds of ‘researchers’ will now spend all their time gathering tons of data and we will disappear beneath it like the poor woman in our picture – and be replaced by algorithms.

Like a pdf to tease your friends with? It’s here: