The Impact of Big Data in Decisions

Data has made all the difference recently when it comes to making decisions.


Leaders can use several tools to aid them in the decision-making process: journals, magazines, conversations, etc.

But the prominence of big data has made all the difference in recent years.

To put that in perspective, in 2016, more data will be created than in all of history combined, said Bill Decker, big data expert and chief of marketing, strategy and business development at 3D Printing Channel. The amount of knowledge a man gathered 100 years ago in his entire life is equivalent to reading The New York Times every day for two weeks. And an iPhone has more computer power in it than the first Apollo space mission, Decker said.

With so much information out there, big data can be useful objective information that aids the executive decision-making process in several ways, Decker said. For example, it allows chief financial officers to know exactly how much an employee costs per minute. Say there’s an employee who’s very argumentative, for example, how much do his arguments cost the company? If data helps figure out that he costs $3 per minute, and he argues with someone X amount of minutes a day, leaders can figure out if he’s worth more working at the office or at home where he can’t pick a fight.

Chief learning officers also can use big data in a dashboard, Decker said. If a CLO is responsible for training in multiple locations and has access to a computer or iPad screen, they can see what’s going on in each location, focus on one location and choose criteria by which to assess the situation.

Something like this is a real-time way for CLOs to see how well training works and to track things like absentees in training, productivity after training and other helpful indicators. There are, of course, limitations to the use of big data, Decker said. Human decision power still trumps numbers alone. A leader can see all the research that supports option A and still say, “I don’t care, I want the red one.”

“Having the information doesn’t change de facto human behavior,” Decker said. “Change has to come because people desire it. Then the data can help prove the case.”


Andie Burjek is a Chief Learning Officer editorial intern. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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