Why Data Isn’t Everything

If we relied on data 100 per cent, we’d be ruled by robots, writes Andy Bolter, creative partner at Yes&Pepper

What was the young Canadian woman thinking when she drove her car into a lake because her Sat-Nav guided her to? I fancy she wasn’t thinking about data. There’s a quote by Dan Zarrella, the social media scientist, that says ‘marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed’. Well this driver may not have had her eyes closed but they might as well have been, as her reliance on the data completely overruled her ability to look at the road and interpret the bigger picture.

As extreme as driving your car into a lake is, we all often give up our control and responsibility to our screens. It could be as simple as using Google maps; sometimes my connection becomes dodgy and I’m walking in the wrong direction.

Then there’s the app that basically dresses you every morning, otherwise known as BBC Weather. I can’t count how many times I’ve waited for my train in a t-shirt and espadrilles, soaking wet because the app has told me it wasn’t going to rain, even though I can see grey skies and black clouds.

©zapp2photo – Fotolia

Despite what many people think, data is not everything and sometimes data can be wrong. Questioning the data provides more information and possibilities for us. When it comes to being more creative and innovative, data provides the clue and the pattern of what we think the consumer wants, but after that, if an individual’s mind is only confined to improving the sales volume and increasing the ratio on data sheets, the business will never progress to the next level. So, don’t let the data take over your innovations and your ideas, and make your gut experience, expertise and knowledge become the most valuable part of the business. Data is great for taking a problem apart, but it’s uses are dependent on the algorithm it’s feeding, data is terrible for solutions.

If we relied on data 100 per cent, we’d be ruled by robots. AI would be doing everything for us; collating the data then producing something that is popular (according to the data…).

We already have people driving into lakes because their Sat-Nav told them to. What on earth would happen to the quality of our work if we handed our responsibilities over to algorithms?

So how does it all end? Data, algorithms, AI and robots are all amazing but don’t let them replace responsibility and all the risk-taking, life pushing, future gazing creativity that comes with humanity. Let’s make sure both data and our brains work together. Because if we don’t, if we just let data and all its joys rule us and our world, then we’re just robots waiting for our Sat-Nav to guide us into the nearest lake.

Written by Andy Bolter, creative partner at Yes&Pepper. Andy will be discussing the issue of data in more detail on 25 October at PerformanceIn Live in his session: Data and the Answer To Everything.