Pick A Side – Intuition In The Time Of Big Data Technology



A thug-of-war drama, dare I say worthy of a Nobel Prize itself, develops and remains a burning question in modern marketing: is there a place for intuition in an age driven by big data technology?

I imagine that just like Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece, it’s a story that will split us. In our case, the rift is between those who venture in the allure of intuition and those that reside in the security of data. Which side should you bet on?

Those In Favor Of Data

Less than two years ago, Andrew McAfee of the MIT Sloan School of Management essentially declared war on intuition, confidently proclaiming its inevitable demise. Citing all kinds of sources, it’s hard to blame him.

The business landscape seems to support him too. Ad Age’s list of largest agencies is increasingly being populated by big data companies; what would look like an investment in a toothbrush company is now really a move on the data the toothbrushes are collecting on users. And who in their right mind starts an argument these days without citing Nielsen or Forbes or “insert data authority here”?

Building Decks and Cashing Checks

As one of the most studied segments in the history of U.S. marketing, Hispanics opened the doors to entire industries dedicated to mass acquisition and capitalization of their behavioral data. An expertise that once belonged to dedicated Hispanic ad agencies, the new authorities are research companies like Nielsen itself, specialized competitors like the Pew Research Center and Millward Brown and an avalanche of boutique big data mining companies selling all sorts of Hispanic gold. And don’t even get me started on the media.

The blanket of big data technology is a warm and cozy one, and leaves little room or desire to get out from under it.

Those In Favor Of Intuition

We are as close to quantifying intuition, as computer scientists are to nailing artificial intelligence. However little percentage intuition has in your decisions, it still plays a role. And it’s hard to find a better iconic champion of those ideals than Steve Jobs, who uttered the words: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition… everything else is secondary” and who led the development of products people didn’t know they wanted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-Ivm6-gP0Q

But therein lies the pickle with intuition; is it an elusive magic tool only worthy of genius minds? Absolutely not. Forbes contributor Greg Satell (see the irony here of me using an authority to support my point) wrote on the harmony with data being reliant on putting humans at the center of that data context itself; therefore facilitating idea testing, accelerating prototyping and empowering decisions.

Intuition Favors the Diligent

The Economist has an alter ego magazine called More Intelligent Life that emulates the same force and verve of their journalism, but unconstrained by objectivity. One of their latest articles chronicles the story of one of music’s most famed artist scouts. The story of the man who discovered Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen is clouded with the intertwined explosion of data-driven decisions in the music industry. And yet in the end, his intuition prevails to give him one last find that made him a legend. It exemplifies how intuition doesn’t come from thin air, but from painstaking years of work and experience.

Going All Twelve Rounds

This will not be a knockout fight and it will be a rivalry for the ages. Our marketing generation will forever be divided between those who believe in intuition and those who rely on big data technology. We would be smart to integrate both; use data to inform our intuition. Still, there will be times when there won’t be enough terabytes to convince us of something; and others where your hunch will leave you alone in a conference room fighting windmills. When those times come, what will you listen to?

Find the perfect balance and listen to Dieste Inc., one of the top Hispanic advertising agencies located in Dallas, Texas. Subscribe to Provoke Weekly below and equip your brain with the best knowledge to help you pick a side between facts and figures or intuition in a time of big data technology.