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Is Big Data Eliminating Gut Feel in Business?

Many of us trust our gut feeling implicitly.

We have all been there when something didn’t feel right but done it anyway. There was nothing obvious to suggest that it was a bad idea. Yet, when it turns out to be a disaster we wonder why we didn’t listen to that gentle little voice: “don’t do it.”

It seems that our gut feel is some magical force, but actually, it is an accumulation of thousands of tiny past moments, all informing our current situation. You could say that gut feel is a personification of Big Data – you can’t always explain it, but you sense that there is great wisdom to be gained from listening to it.

This understanding is crucial to any data scientist seeking to influence their colleagues. They might view the data as being cold and clinical, preferring to rely on their own intuition, but in actual fact, their intuition is based on their own internal data. The difference is that Big Data can reference infinitely more external data than a human mind could ever process. If we see the capabilities of Big Data, its powers of intuition are far greater than any human.

We simply have to use it in tandem with our gut feel.

Experienced business people tend to favour decisions that align with their inner dialogue rather than challenging themselves with outcomes that don’t quite agree. When Big Data has been properly integrated into the business decision-making framework, the smart businesses will use it to refine their gut feel rather than replace it. Experienced business people are rarely wrong for a reason, but the range of outcomes could still vary from good to great. Using Big Data will help their gut feeling to get as near to great as possible.

I suppose that only time will show how data science can work in tandem with our intuition. In a world that is moving scarily and swiftly towards amortality (super intelligent, biologically modified humans who can’t die unless they step under a bus). The days when we can flip the data switch to inform our decisions are not so far away. The fact that all that data lives in a computer at the moment makes it seem that little bit more foreign and lowers our level of trust. But, when we all adopt the data as our own, the floodgates of insight will open.

I wouldn’t mind some giant leaps by big data in recruitment. Matching people with organisations (and the people within them) still remains a huge challenge, although there is surely a whole wealth of data out there that can help to inform better decisions. As a recruiter, my gut feel is what keeps my business moving, but I do my best to use all possible sources of data along the way. As the phrase goes “we are what we eat” – our behaviour defines who we are. When we can analyse and dissect this behaviour a little better, we will take a quantum leap in understanding each other.

Our gut will soon get a willing and very able assistant.