The RIGHT Data Could Be More Valuable

The power of purpose

Good data does not mean good analytics.  Larry Lorenzoni – “Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.”    Without purpose data is useless.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003, according to Schmidt. That’s something like five exabytes of data.

Let me repeat that: we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.

“The real issue is user-generated content,” Schmidt said. He noted that pictures, instant messages, and tweets all add to this.

An IBM report on big data states, “Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.”

What about RIGHT DATA for the RIGHT purpose?   The hype on “BIG DATA” and concepts


We also have a lot of discussion this year about “Smart Data”

Joe Rospars, co-founder and CEO of Blue State Digital, the agency behind both of Obama’s campaigns, says harnessing the power of big data is not about simply analyzing antiseptic information, it’s about using whatever information is at your disposal to understand the people behind it all. “Big data is about having an understanding of what your relationship is with the people who are most important to you and an awareness of the potential in that relationship,” says Rospars.

Open Knowledge Foundation says-

What do we mean by “small data”? Let’s define it crudely as:

“Small data is the amount of data you can conveniently store and process on a single machine, and in particular, a high-end laptop or server”

– See more at:


Small data are derived from our individual digital traces. We generate these data because most of us mediate or at least accompany our lives with mobile technologies. As a result, we all leave a “trail of breadcrumbs” behind us with our digital service providers, which together create our digital traces. The social networks, search engines, mobile operators, online games, and e-commerce sites that we access every day use these digital traces that we leave behind extensively. They aggregate and analyze our digital traces to target marketing and tailor service offerings and advertisements and to improve system performance…

…but none of these services currently consider the value of providing these personal traces back to the person who generated them. Consequently, they do not yet have a ready made vehicle to repackage their data about me, in a useful format for me, and make it available to me!


Mining for gold in the ocean —

Ocean waters do hold gold – nearly 20 million tons of it. However, if you were hoping make your fortune mining the sea, consider this: Gold in the ocean is so dilute that its concentration is on the order of parts per trillion. Each liter of seawater contains, on average, about 13 billionths of a gram of gold.

There is also (undissolved) gold in/on the seafloor. The ocean, however, is deep, meaning that gold deposits are a mile or two under water. And once you reach the ocean floor, you’ll find that gold deposits are also encased in rock that must be mined through. Not easy.

Currently, there really isn’t a cost-effective way to mine or extract gold from the ocean to make a profit. But, if we could extract all of that gold, there’s enough of it that each person on Earth could have nine pounds of the precious metal. Eureka!

If we invest the time and the money we could all have our nine pounds of gold. Better yet, we could come up with a technology to mine the gold from the ocean from the business perspective. It is possible that technologically we could mine the ocean for gold. Why don’t we do it?

I have to start asking the same questions about data. Why are we looking to focus on big data and ignoring or leaning away from the discussions on “the right” data? I think small data is akin to strategically looking for gold already in a cluster. It is easier to access (even though it still may be difficult). In the short term it is more valuable and generally the cycles in labor put against gaining this precious metal pay dividends immediately. Same could be said for small data. We have access to small data, we can easily identify what this data is contextually related to and this data has more immediate value.


The focus on data for purpose is starting to get lost on organizations that don’t pay attention to personal knowledge management or enterprise knowledge management.

Seeking data + 

Personal and Enterprise Knowledge is the key to Knowledge Transfer which enables Organization Resiliency, Sustainability and Growth.

In a recent meeting with a high level executive,  I discussed collaboration, knowledge management, knowledge transfer and the power of facilitation.   After an intense exchange of ideas the exec asked “what is the deliverable”?  That my friends is the problem here.    Big data, small data, smart data, some data, something has to be delivered in an explicit package to be of value.    The problem with that is not everything is tangible and not everything can convert to explicit data.

You go on a trip to a beautiful island resort and you have a wonderful time.   The clear blue waters were warm and inviting, at night you sank into a comfortable chair and watched the stars dance for hours.  The trip not only rejuvenated you but it also forever changed your perspective of the world and life as you know it.    At the end of the trip, there was a survey;  you were asked to rate different areas of your trip from 1-5.     At no time did a person interview you and there wasn’t a diary or historical writing of your experience, just the numeric reference for feedback.     It is possible that through the lens of numbers the resort could gain valuable insight on what they are doing right and wrong or where they could adjust BUT I suspect that the story of your experience would be of much greater value.  That story would be told from person to person and not through analytics.   It is not a “deliverable” that is accounted for.   This is what we miss all the time.     Everyone knows about it, everyone seems to “get it” and tell me that they understand the value in the stories or the value in the human element.   If that is the case and people “get it” how come so many organizations ignore it?   Why are we ignoring the emotional and more tacit considerations?

I can understand why big data is a big deal.   What about the best thing you never knew YOU had?

What about the information that you knew you had but now have lost track of?

Data has no value if it is “just data”, you could have ownership of all the gold in the ocean and never make one bar.

Maybe we overlooked the value of the ocean within itself and should never have been concerned with the gold.   The reality is that we continue to devalue people, relationships and context or work and we seek tools, technologies and STUFF.    There is nothing wrong with the usage of tools but the idea that everything is tangible, explicit and readily available is bologna.