Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree

Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners aren’t echo chambers — and how great research teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.


Big Data – disrupting business?

Maybe it’s the term Big itself, but the mere mention of Big Data causes immense excitement with business executives. This is leading to disruption in business, as they quickly realize that their existing business strategy is inadequate and needs to change.

This has led many to follow past strategies and to be spectators, waiting to see which Use Cases others have wins with.

It’s argued by many, that this approach, whilst successful in the past, will leave many organisations too far behind to catch up. I myself don’t believe, that with this innovation wave, that you are going to see the killer Use Cases shared within an industry. Those that invest and gain competitive advantage won’t share exactly how they do it. They’ll however share the building blocks, as more formal academic research papers. If you are not a technology or Internet company you most likely will be relying on the old guard tech vendors. It will take these vendors time to create solutions – that can be rolled out in an industry. But “where’s the competitive advantage?”, if all your competitors have the same solution.

Why is it so disruptive to business?

We are discovering that the insights gleamed via data and modern machine learning techniques are invalidating previously accepted business approaches and models. In the past, before cheap computing power and data storage was available, it was acceptable to have higher error rates. It was too costly, in the past, to either automate the processes or to collect sufficient data (sampling interval were long or aggregate/derived data was used).

Now it’s not too costly to do so but it’s difficult to assemble a team with the skills to utilize it. It’s even harder, to show that the ingrained learning of your executives, is stopping progress. But that’s what happens, when they learn more about Big Data, it causes business disruption as they realize the old ways are quickly becoming outdated.