From Intuition Gurus to Data Driven Businesses

Author: IƱaki Aguirregaviria

Manager BA & Big Data @Quistor

Throughout history, organizations have based their decision-making on experience and intuition. Both have been important and fundamental for the proper development of organizations for many years and are still crucial for decision-making in many businesses today.

We consider intuition as the ability to understand things instantaneously without the need for any reasoning. Figures such as Howard Gardner and Daniel Goleman were convinced that trusting our intuition would help us make better decisions.

In business and in life, intuition appears or comes to be perceived as such after repeating something many times and over a long period of time. A purchasing manager already knows what will or will not work in the next campaign because he has repeated and validated that process multiple times until he is able to intuit much better than a person who has to make those decisions without having gone through those previous processes. Your brain has automated the analysis process just as your brain learns to automate the commands it must give to the rest of your body to walk, ride a bike, or drive.

Experience is able to fill in historical data that other people without that information are unable to, and thus decide on the basis of their intuition, that is to just as your brain has learned to automatically assimilate over the years to make decisions. In short, we need information (experience) to train our brain to make decisions quickly and effectively based on intuition (automatic learning).

What is data?

Data is a form of representation of facts, "data does not exist, you have to create it". Just as writing systems were created, or numbers were created to be able to count or value, we are continuously creating data when we weigh, measure, estimate, calculate, we are continuously creating data. As time goes by the number of data, we create is greater, we not only measure, but we also know what we like and what we don't like, who we relate to, what we think, etc... How will all this evolve? We have created new forms of data: photographs, videos, audios, etc. but what is coming is another qualitative leap with 5G and the sensorisation or interconnection of practically all our everyday objects that will increase the volume of data to extraordinary levels.

What makes data valuable?

Data on its own is arguably worthless, it is the context, the environment, the situation that turns data into information, which is really the basis for generating knowledge.

What does the 38 degrees data tell us? Without the right context, it is useless, but if I tell you that it is my body temperature, you know that I have a fever and probably an infection. It is no longer an isolated piece of data; it has become information.

Therefore, we should keep data in context. The context can be considered as the system of data representation. Such a system has a common vocabulary and a set of relationships between components. The metadata would be the set of these relationships. As organizations become more reliant on data, the value of the data asset becomes clearer - just look at Facebook.

But getting value from data doesn't just happen, it requires first of all the intention to do it, the purpose to believe in it and to want to do it, but it also requires coordination, planning, commitment, management, and leadership - in short, it requires stewardship or governance of that asset.

Equally, the great variety of data today, its immense and ever-increasing volume, requires that to really take advantage of all that information requires very careful governance of it, with reliable and extensible management.

Recognizing that data and information can be used for different purposes implies that it is important to manage it.

We can conclude that if we really want to abandon the augurs and gurus in our companies, we must take care of, administer and manage one of our greatest assets very well, data, which with the right context (metadata) will become information and with our capabilities (analytics) we will turn it into knowledge that will allow us to know many more things than we could intuit.

Why Data Governance?

Many companies already use data to manage and make decisions, but what about their own data?

Until recently, data was thrown away and nowadays it is mistreated and lost due to a lack of trust and quality. We modify, alter, and confuse it. We don't know where we keep them or what we keep them or what they mean. We don't trust them, and we stop using them and we go back to believing more in our judgment (intuition) than in what the data wants to tell us. In short, we are returning to the Middle Ages after having lived through the Greco-Roman civilization and waiting for a new renaissance.

That is why it is so necessary in our organizations to govern this precious asset, because it must be cared for, pampered, because it is a different asset that is not consumed and can be used multiple times without wear and tear.

Imagine if we could know its economic value, would we treat it in the same way? If you really want to be a data-driven company, start by valuing the data you have, taking care of its quality, organizing it, and knowing where it is, what it means, how we collect, transform, and exploit it again and again. Otherwise, you will have to keep relying on gurus, intuition, and trust that you can remain competitive, but not for long.

Companies seeking to remain competitive must stop making decisions based on intuition. The time of the gurus is over, the time of data, information, and artificial intelligence has begun.

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