Do you know what I know?

Do you know what I know?

We cannot imagine a world without data. As we had little data in the past, big data became a commodity. But what if data takes over the world?

Behavior reflected in data

Isn’t it scary that companies do know more about you than you about yourself? About when you check your emails, how often you’re online, your driving skills, when it’s time for replacement of your car, when you’re trying to become pregnant, books you are interested in and things you’re dreaming of. Behaviors and patterns that are reflected in data are powerful tools for marketing experts and used in every company.

Big data

Though it seems we don’t have to think about anything anymore, we’ll still need to think critically using all that data. In the TedTalk from Susan Etlinger the usage of big data and its biggest challenge is presented: you can let it mean anything. It all depends on the interpretation of the data. Data can mean different things, depending on the context it was put in. Critical thinking skills are therefore needed to make sure we fully understand the data we have in front of us.

Data for micro-managers

This reminds me on my previous jobs and the question I raised to myself many times: what do I want to do with the available data? As a manager I could ask for all different kinds of data and know exactly what team members were doing every moment of the day. I would be able to micro-manage performances and people. But to what extend do I want to do that? Shouldn’t employee relationship be based on trust rather than on performance data? And who can tell me that the data is the correct one and how I should interpret the data? How do I avoid the data is misleading me? Critical thinking as Susan Etlinger explained helped me a lot in this.

Key points in data usage

Having all big data available is great, don’t get me wrong, but I think that there are a few key points of getting it right:

  • Data needs to turn the big data into small data again. This is the goal of data humanism. This helps to increase the data quality rather than the data quantity.
  • Use date carefully: make sure the data that you have is right. Thinking about fake news, incorrect data due to missing context, etc.
  • Make sure to remove data waste: which data is interesting for you and which data might not be useful.
  • Make sure to know the impact on privacy: think about the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as per 25th of May 2018 that does say when you are allowed to store personal data.
  • Data will never give solutions to problems.

A world without data?

Going back to the old days with little data, would that be an option? Or we might want to continue with no data at all. A life without data means we have to be more creative, do things via trial and error, and follow our intuition based on previous experiences. But the same time this process might waste time and energy and is less effective when data is used for certain decision making processes. At the end data is needed to improve ourselves, our companies and our world. The only question is: how do we make sure we do use it carefully and wisely?