Big Data vs. Intuition in Business Decisions (Part 1)

This post was cowritten by our fall intern, Angela Martin.

The desire to make better decisions as quickly as possible has led to an even bigger push around data and analytics, specifically in making data-driven decisions. But does intuition still play a role? A review of recent commentary suggests there are strong arguments on both sides of the man vs. machine debate. Here are some of the advantages we discovered about data-driven decisions. Read our follow-up blog about the advantages of intuition-driven decisions.

Advantages of Big Data

1) Measures what’s hard to measure

Big data gives companies the opportunity to show hard numbers, ROI and even sentiment. You can’t analyze a gut feeling, but big data provides statistics that can lead to better decision-making.  

An article by The New York Times looks at big data dealing with behavior and sentiment, using Google, Facebook and Twitter as examples. Using these data-driven platforms we can measure customer opinion in fine detail. In other words, it creates a “behavioral loop,” points out The Times’ Steve Lohr. This is something that human intuition cannot achieve. You may think that your audience is going to react a certain way to an announcement or social post, but until you look back at the data provided by these sites, you can never know for certain. “Models do not just predict, but they can make things happen,” observes Rachel Strutt of Google Research.

2) Collects and synthesizes experiences

Data provides a tool to analyze customer relations, project results, sales numbers, and other historic aspects of business, which can be useful in gaining a holistic perspective.

Information Week explains how predictive sales algorithms don’t create knowledge out of thin air, but collect data from hundreds of shared human experiences. As Barrett Thompson of Zilliant observes, "I can't see what the other 499 salespeople did, and I can't even remember what I did in March of last year. I make so many decisions that they become lost in memory. If I had a software tool, an algorithm that could remind me of what I've learned, and reveal to me what everyone else has learned... I could look at the guidance coming out of the algorithm as a distilled and refined experience from myself and people just like me."

3) Ability to make quicker decisions

The need to make more informed decisions faster is the primary reason organizations say they are adopting big data practices. When you leave everything to machine the results are collected, analyzed and distributed much quicker, saving valuable time in decision-making.

Information Week explains that big data technology platforms provide the ability to skip the process of data research. Author Randy Bean explains that this preparation step is usually 80 percent of the time required for data analysis in a conventional setting. Bean credits the elimination of this step to the “load and go” ability of big data. This allows you to gather all available data and then rapidly detect patterns and correlations.

What’s your take on this subject? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’re interested in discussing or learning more about big data vs. intuition join Dix & Eaton and other PR professionals at the Council of Public Relations Firms’ Critical Issues Forum in New York on Thursday, October 23. Leading the conversation will be Tedd Goff, co-founder of Precision Strategy and the Digital Director for President Obama’s re-election campaign, with Tim Leberech, CEO of NBBJ, and Claudia Perlich, chief scientist at Dstillery. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #PRGenome. 

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