Thinking Small: 3 Ways to Remain Creative in a World of Big Data

by Sudhir Venkatesh – June 16, 2015


If you are wondering how the Big Data revolution is changing business, listen to the findings of a recent Forrester Research report:

“Businesses are drowning in data, but starving for insights. Worse, they have no systematic way to consistently turn data into action.”

I would agree. I’ve failed to meet any business leaders who say they are satisfied with their data-driven investments. Companies allocate enormous sums to analytics—software, personnel, digital tracking, and the like. Data analysis has become a time trap, taking precious energy away from the other core needs. Yet, like lemmings, we can’t seem to stop gathering more and more information.

The obsession with Big Data isn’t going anywhere. Numbers are the chief way that we produce order these days. And they can be the easiest way to depress creative thinking in an organization. While the 1% demonstrate their prowess with data-driven analytics, the remaining 99% feel out of the loop and unable to contribute. Unfortunately, the most creative people are in this bigger pool—the dreamers, storytellers, myth-makers and strategists who say the things that others cannot or will not say.

To stop the bleeding, I want to suggest some ways that information can launch creativity inside your organizations.

In the next few posts, I’ll lay out my case for a very simple proposition: the most successful managers today neither have the time, resources, nor expertise to turn to Big Data for most decisions. Their creative leadership arises instead from taking advantage of “small” clues buried inside their organization. They see patterns in idiosyncrasies, they find ways to stretch capacities, and anticipate change before crisis hits.

I call this form of leadership Thinking Small.

In this post, I’ll start with 3 simple ways data can be used to foster creativity (In later posts, I’ll talk about the exact types of data—small and big—that should be gathered by creative leaders).

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