We enjoyed reading the impressive McKinsey Global Institute Report entitled: “Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity.” We would highly recommend this 245 page report to anyone interested in the interconnections between so-called Big Data and Innovation.
Heavily weighted towards the technology aspects of the Big Data wave we were delighted to see growing awareness expressed regarding the human-centered aspects of the role of data and information in problem-solving and innovation.
For us these were the most important points in the 145 page document:
“Presenting information in such a way that people can consume it effectively is a key challenge that needs to be met if analyzing data is to lead to concrete action.”
“Human beings may have limits in their ability to consume and understand big data. The generation of big data may be growing exponentially and advancing technology may allow the global economy to store and process ever greater quantities of data, but there may be limits to our innate human ability—our sensory and cognitive faculties—to process this data torrent. It is said that the mind can handle about seven pieces of information in its short-term memory.”
“The topic of information overload has been widely studied by academics from neuroscientists to economists. Economist Herbert Simon once said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
“Despite these apparent limits, there are ways to help organizations and individuals to process, visualize, and synthesize meaning from big data. For instance, more sophisticated visualization techniques and algorithms, including automated algorithms, can enable people to see patterns in large amounts of data and help them to unearth the most pertinent insights.”
“Advancing collaboration technology also allows a large number of individuals, each of whom may possess understanding of a special area of information, to come together in order to create a whole picture to tackle interdisciplinary problems.”
“If organizations and individuals deployed such techniques more widely, end-user demand for big data could strengthen significantly.”
“Human beings have evolved to become highly effective at perceiving certain types of patterns with their senses but continue to face significant constraints in their ability to process other types of data such as large amounts of numerical or text data. For this reason, there is a currently a tremendous amount of research and innovation in the field of visualization, i.e., techniques and technologies used for creating images, diagrams, or animations to communicate, understand, and improve the results of big data analyses. We present some examples to provide a glimpse into this burgeoning and important field that supports big data.”
“We project a need for 1.5 million additional managers and analysts in the United States who can can ask the right questions and consume the results of the analysis of big data effectively.”
The visualization examples provided in this McKinsey report are somewhat primitive and there seemed to be little awareness regarding the information design community that has been focused on shaping data and information for human digestion long before the current Big Data wave arrived.
In addition there were no examples of humans interacting with visualized information that has been integrated directly into innovation process. This report did not really talk about how leading firms are already working at this intersection combining visual sensemaking with advanced problem solving. Humantific has been working this intersection since 2001! We have already learned alot about the human to information to innovation interface! In terms of capability we call this The New Adaptability….more soon!
Overall this is an excellent report worth reading. It can be downloaded for free.