THE BLOG

Intuition and Big Data Collide

05/02/2014 11:33 am ET | Updated Jul 02, 2014

When I started my career back in the late 80s, 'intuition' was a skill that was greatly valued. It was used in marketing, sales meetings, to help acquire clients and creative development to name a few. Intuition really was only evident in someone that had lots of experience and wisdom. The most creative and intelligent people had it. Everyone wanted it -- including me.

Coveted Intuition

Back then I often wondered how in the world would I get this highly coveted intuition? After many discussions with peers, and many years of trying to figure out how to obtain intuition, I finally came to the conclusion that I actually had extensive digital marketing experience. My intuition did exist.

There is bad news with all of this. Big Data has arrived. Now that data driven marketing is considered best practice and measurable outcomes are embedded in every marketer's strategy, what's a person to do if they have intuition? I can't answer that. However, I do know someone that can. John Spence is a Top 100 business thought leader and small business influencer in America. Who better to ask a few questions about how intuition and big data collide?

Q: In What Ways Do You Use Your Intuition To Make Better Marketing Decisions?

To me, intuition is simply a manifestation of 'Pattern Recognition.' If you study something carefully enough, from many different angles, eventually a 'pattern' emerges, a trend, an anomaly. I use big data as ONE of the sources I study, along with conversations, reading, scouring the Internet and simply thinking about the issue... until I see the pattern.

Metrics and Data

Today, proper marketing is all about executing with metrics and data as a guide. Both help the marketer create the right messages, imagery, a call-to action, conversion tactics, digital channel selection and technology usage. These are not the only things to consider, but they are critical nonetheless. If intuition is no longer coveted like it once was, and real time data exchange and dashboards have taken over, that could mean intuition is no longer needed. Could there be a possible connection in which both intuition and big data work together? Hmm. Let's ask John what he thinks. We might be on to something.

Q: How Do Intuition And Big Data Together Help Make Better Marketing Decisions?

I believe that big data is a wonderful way to underscore and support intuition. If you have an intuition about something and the data strongly supports it, it gives you that much more confidence to go with your gut. A great deal of marketing is ephemeral, and cannot be captured directly with data -- so putting the two together helps make more accurate and effective marketing decisions.

Brainpower

There is a common trait between big data and human intuition. Are you ready for this? They both require a significant amount of brainpower and are processing information at speeds well beyond our imagination. Intuition requires our brain to really work hard at trying to come up with a solution, or at least something close to a solution based on previous experiences. I also think intuition is tied to associative learning and has some very similar characteristics. According to Brainpickings.org, Intuition works in an associative manner, It feels effortless (even though it does use a significant amount of brain power), and it's fast.

Big Data

Big data is also processed quickly and requires massive amounts of computing power. In fact, it's processed so fast, it delivers results in real time. I know that our brains are fast sometimes, but not 100 percent real time -- all the time. Like intuition, with big data we never see the actual processing, but we do see the end result of data that's delivered to us in an instant in the form of numbers, percentages and visual graphics. An example of this would be the Google Analytics dashboard. According to Wikipedia,

Big data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualization

Q: Why Do You Think Intuition and Big Data Have So Much In Common, Yet Big Data Gets All The Attention?

Because big data is based on... well... data. Whereas intuition is based on feelings and frankly, guesses. It seems more logical and sound to make decisions based on real data, it is easier to justify and appears more sold, even though intuition is often just as, or more, accurate.

Big Data Means Big Collision

Is the collision of intuition and big data useful? In my opinion, yes, this collision is very useful. Let's look at it this way. Intuition and big data have yet another common trait. People are taking advantage of them both to make better decisions every day. Big data can give us a glimpse of how to get answers in an instant. But what it can't do is fully interpret and relate to experiences and data it has not analyzed yet. That's where intuition comes in. I suggest if you are struggling with how to come to a conclusion, use both your intuition and big data. They will guide your thinking and help make your solution become a lot clearer... and you'll get there faster too. Intuition and big data have collided for the better. They will continue to work together to revolutionize the way we work.

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