Big data, wise guys and the iPad

Big data, wise guys and the iPad


How much information is too much?

Decision makers know that there is never an optimal amount of data available; eventually something is always missing or something needs to be discarded to reach a point that feels optimal; if we consider that the decision itself may be best judged from the perspective of time, this is even more evident: in the short term the decision may seem correct, but longer term, with new information coming up, it may turn out to be a disaster.

If we look, we notice that as mechanization in organizations increase, the appetite for data grows (we are now not interested in technical problems which are themselves becoming foundations of new industries) and the more mechanical roles people find themselves in, the more paralyzed they become when it comes to making decisions in critical situations. Think about the big screw-ups that super smart teams make in crisis situations when, looking at it from the outside, the solution is ridiculously simple: you just have to do the right thing; yet big screw ups happen when they follow templates or KPIs to make the call (purely quantitative measures). The Silicon Valley offers too many examples in this respect, but the same goes for the F500: it’s enough to think about the cheating and corruption on the top echelons.

Speaking of quantities: artificial functions and goals (that have nothing to do with people), don’t need people. Technology in this case is not aiding people but replacing them. Perhaps intuiting this (the anti-human aspect) is why speculation was frowned upon even in the Middle Ages. Day trading was one of the first businesses that went fully automated. Nowadays it’s obvious that the quants are being replaced in big investment firms and it shows just how mechanical modern business organizations are, including the jobs they offer that almost all functions can be automated, even so called strategic decision making…talk about finding self-fulfillment.

Back to the topic: we’d like to propose that you consider world views as an indispensable factor when it comes to the role of information.

Not to risk loosing you too early we won’t elaborate on the world views themselves; we only resort to listing some important aspects to consider, but leaving the dots unconnected, out of respect:

BY ITSELF data never becomes information, information never becomes knowledge, and knowledge never becomes wisdom!

In a hierarchy, the lower levels depend on the higher, not the other way around!


Data may become information, information may become knowledge and knowledge may become wisdom (wisdom as purpose even gets mentioned in organizations occasionally, but more as a joke, it is rarely actually considered or addressed).

The key is the observer!

If the observer is wise, data and wisdom are directly connected through awareness. The significance of quantity is minimal; in other words a wise guy doesn’t need an iPad!

If the observer actively knows (knowledgeable would not be an appropriate expression), data and knowledge are connected.

If the observer is well informed, data and information is connected.

If the observer has absolutely no awareness of anything, give him all the access to all the data: he’ll use his iPhone as a fashion accessory: goes well both with suits and turtlenecks.

From the lower point of view: knowledge is gained from wisdom, information from knowledge and data from information!

Without knowledge, data will never become information and without wisdom (intelligence in a supra rational sense) there is nothing: no data, no information, no knowledge!

More explicitly and practically, without QUALITATIVE, essential leadership:

Wisdom can’t be achieved by knowledge management (itself an absurd idea).

Knowledge can’t be gained by information management.

Information can’t be gained from data management.

Most importantly: the less wisdom is present, the more data proliferates.

To deny all this automatically means that we say that there is no wisdom without data; and this is a question of, again, world views!

This has of course far reaching practical implications in all areas of business; it’s enough to think about “knowledge management”, the hot big data question, decision making, risk management, organizational development, marketing…pretty much all business functions + leadership, which is of course NOT a business function!

So: looking at the size of the mobile, enterprise software, big data, IoT and other industries and the world-view that drives them, what kind of decisions can we expect to be made on our behalf?

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Laszlo Kovari is a writer and the founder of Prakhsis, an organizational development company that has been a pioneer in the concept of organic organizations. As a "consigliere" he has worked with founders, managers, CEOs and board members at startups, mid-sized companies and some of the Fortune 500 across North America and Europe. Laszlo is based in Prague, Czech Republic, supporting clients across Europe.

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