Big data: Like Moneyball for your business

Jeff Lucker of Deloitte at Structure:Data 2012

(c) 2012 Pinar Ozger. [email protected]

It’s tough to overcome some of the biases that have become second nature in most businesses. But if you’re John Lucker, a principal at Deloitte, overcoming the “human factor” can be critical to the success of driving organizational change.
One example Lucker used was Moneyball, the story of Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s. The premise behind the book was that data could be a better predictor of wins — and the overall success of the team — than the scouts who thought they knew everything.
“The human brain is very bad at juggling decisions,” Lucker told an audience at GigaOM’s Structure:Data conference in New York on Wednesday. Turns out that we humans are pretty biased about how we make decisions, which can get in the way of attaining a massive amount of value that could otherwise be unlocked — if only we looked at pure numbers.
Lucker gave plenty of examples of how business processes were confounded by these biases — how insurance agencies charged higher premiums for applicants who skydive or rock climb, when those who bike or run regularly are much more likely to die in an accident. Or how Lucker himself has received more than 250 credit card emails even though he’s only had the same two credit cards over the last two decades.
As it relates to most businesses, those human factors get in the way of organizational change. Lucker pointed to the A’s example, for instance: It wasn’t enough just for Billy Beane to have the data to defend his decisions, but he also had to win over the hearts and minds of the organization to actually effect change in the way the team was run.
In the same way, Lucker said you need to have the data, but you also need to establish a clear link between what you’re doing with big data and analytics and what your corporate strategy is. Otherwise those new processes won’t work.
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