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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why Data Boom May Be The ‘Big Innovation Of Our Age’

Data–your emails, the lovely lady giving you directions in your smart phone, the latest political polls– It may be overwhelming, but it is revolutionizing all aspects of our world.

Take baseball: Computer-generated analysis is allowing coaches to project how well players will perform, as we learned in the movie “Moneyball.”

In health, researchers troll the web looking for spikes in Google searches on flu, because they know that means in a couple of weeks patients will be heading for the emergency room.

And new research in data crunching may help people understand how to job search. And the jobs are definitely in data crunching.

The McKinsey Global Institute says the U.S. will need up to 200,000 analysts and a million and a half data-literate managers just to understand all the data swirling around us in what the New York Times calls the “age of big data.”


  • Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Center for Digital Business and a professor at the Sloan School of Management at The Massachusetts Institute Of Technology

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  • Greg S.

    Robin, I think that you and your guest, as  matter of convenience and for purposes of comparison, extended the  popular confusion that Apple is not and wasn’t a data-oriented company.  Unlike some companies that look at consumer desires and provide an existing product at a higher level of quality, convenience or customer service as a way to innovate in the market, Apple and its brilliant leadership,  innovate by bringing leading edge ideas to the marketplace in profoundly useful ways. They have and do innovate in all areas of business including the use of data, having developed the first very large scale corporate “data warehouse”  for Business Intelligence and Competitive Analysis in the 1980s! (Yes, I was involved) Obviously, you do not get to a position of market dominance purely through intuition. Apple, as everyone knows, plays everything of a competitive nature very close to the vest. 

  • Heaviest Cat

    Um… couldn’t we get another view of this issue. Youknow, one that goes beyond the trite ,corporate serving  rhetoric of  :big innovation”and that is critical of data manipulation tracking “consumer choices among other things? Also, why is an ostensibly public radio program in deference to this “revolution’ precieveing its listens as mere “consumers” rather than citizens in a democracy who must make informed decisions?Is this your idea of  the kind of “independent journalism” touted at every fundraiser?

  • 6 Sigma

    Data is
    everywhere whether your filters let it in or cause the data to bounce off your
    grill. Even the challenged use data every day at the grease drive-up window. They
    check their pockets to see if they can afford to super-size their pre-diabetic
    gut bomb.

    I believe Eric
    B. was promoting a hypothesis that if you are relaxed, have positive intention,
    don’t jump to conclusions and actually measure what’s happening out there, you
    might just learn how to take advantage of the data for profit or in other
    contexts more altruistic pursuits.

    As a Six Sigma
    Black Belt, I have learned to embrace the data. Natural systems and human
    constructs are freighted with data, numbers and hypotheses just waiting to be

    Walk towards
    the light.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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