The Good News About Data, with Marc Preusche

Data breaches, the Chinese social credit system, Facebook scandals… Hardly a week goes by without the subject of data-gone-wrong dominating the media. Yet the simple abundance of data doesn’t automatically mean we’ve entered the terrifying world of George Orwell’s 1984. In fact, having strong data culture allows us to work more effectively and make great progress in fields like modern medicine. For this installment of the Blue Sofa Series, we invited Data Scientist Marc Preusche, the Co-Founder and Managing Director of LEROI, to discuss the role of data in today’s world.

Finding the good in data

“Data evokes a lot of fear and misunderstanding,” says Marc. “When you hear politicians talk about data, it’s always negative, negative, negative… But so much can be done with the proper use of data.” From a business perspective, using data effectively means having a healthy company data culture that aligns with an organization’s overall goals and objectives. According to a recent McKinsey Quarterly report (1), “when an organization’s data mission is detached from business strategy and core operations, it should come as no surprise that the results of analytics initiatives may fail to meet expectations. But when excitement about data analytics infuses the entire organization, it becomes a source of energy and momentum. The technology, after all, is amazing. Imagine how far it can go with a culture to match.”

Keeping Data Science Simple

“Understanding data science doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the root of data science is simply taking an observation and transforming it into an insight, according to Marc. He breaks down data science so that even a child could understand it using a relatable analogy: Legos. “If you are playing Legos, and I can see you playing Legos and putting the first pieces together, then I can tell you, ‘hey, if you do this and this and this, you’ll make an even better Lego piece.’ Based on what you’re already building, I can deduce what it will eventually be. That’s observation and prediction. I can use that and tell you how to do a better job. That’s the heart of data science.”

The Alexa blog (2) takes the child analogy even further, describing a data scientist as “the adult version of the kid who can’t stop asking ‘Why?’ They’re the kind of person who goes into an ice cream shop and gets five different scoops on their cone because they really need to know what each one tastes like.” In short, Data Scientists are curious and they seek out answers. They use the power of observation combined with available data to help people- and companies- make better decisions.

What a Data Scientist Does

According to the UC Berkeley School of Information (3), “effective data scientists are able to identify relevant questions, collect data from a multitude of different data sources, organize the information, translate results into solutions, and communicate their findings in a way that positively affects business decisions. These skills are required in almost all industries.”

Marc would agree, citing advances in medicine as one example of how the data revolution is improving lives already. “A simple example of this would be use of X-rays or CT-scans to more accurately determine cancer,” says Marc. “There’s also the movement coming from specialists, marketers, sales people, and user experience designers: they usually love data, because it makes their job a whole lot easier. It’s a positive movement for their industries.”

When asked to explain digital intelligence in simple terms, one that even grandma would understand, Marc took on the “grandma test” challenge. “Imagine you have to see your banking advisor about investing your retirement money,” Marc explains. “You go to that person to get insights on the stock market or insights on where to put the money. That’s an example of intelligence. It’s not the digital version, it’s the offline version. Now, imagine that instead of going to your broker or your advisor, you go to a machine. The machine does the same thing: it advises you on something and it gives you intelligence. But the machine doesn’t have the brain of one advisor, it basically has the brain of all the advisors.”

Do More with Data

In short, data is a powerful tool, but using data effectively requires the right mindset and approach from the beginning. “You develop a data culture by moving beyond specialists and skunkworks,” says the Mckinsey report (1), “with the goal of achieving deep business engagement, creating employee pull, and cultivating a sense of purpose, so that data can support your operations instead of the other way around.”

Marc wholeheartedly agrees. “So much can be done with the proper use of data. And not just in marketing and sales, but almost everywhere. It can help really increase productivity and quality of life. Wherever you go, data can help you do more.”

For more MCH insights about the importance of data, check out our Expert Talk with Marc Preusche, Marco Eberhard (CEO Promotion Tools AG), and Harry Hofstetter (Trend and Innovation Strategy Consultant MCH Global), “Data-driven insights & measuring experience marketing impact”, and stay tuned for future episodes of “The Blue Sofa Series” right here on MCH Global Insights.

References

1. “Why data culture matters” McKinsey Quarterly report, by Alejandro Díaz, Kayvaun Rowshankish, and Tamim Saleh, September 2018 (Link)

2. Understanding Data Science and Why it’s so Important, Alexa blog (Link)

3. What is Data Science?, UC Berkeley School of Information (Link)

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