Posted by Jeff Adelson-Yan (@jeffadelsonyan)
In 2009 Google’s Chief Economist Hal Varian said, “The sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians.” He added: “I’m not kidding.”
We could not agree more and thanks to a recent article from Think Quarterly, we now have real evidence to back up Varian’s prediction.
“Between the dawn of civilization and 2003, we only created five exabytes; now we’re creating that amount every two days. By 2020, that figure is predicted to sit at 53 zettabytes (53 trillion gigabytes) – an increase of 50 times.”
So, guess who gets to make sense of all that data mess? Statisticians, baby. Today you’re just as likely to find a math major working on an advertising campaign, as you will a marketing major. Parents, pull out some flash cards, it’s time to start teaching kids their numbers at an even earlier age!
Varian, who was hired to help Google perfect the company’s ad bidding system, knows a thing or two about data. “We used to be calorie poor and now the problem is obesity. We used to be data poor, now the problem is data obesity,” he’s quoted as saying.
But, the good news, this economics hero says the best way to deal with data is:
“You need to focus on quality. You’ll be better off with a small but carefully structured sample rather than a large sloppy sample,”
Best point of the Think Quartely article is Varian’s emphasis on businesses understanding how to use their data in decision making.
“If you’re the chief anything, you always have a problem with people telling you what you want to hear,” adds Varian. “It’s hard to get criticism.”
Varian emphasizes that this is a problem because too often “Yes Men” (and women) fear giving the boss the truth, while all along the truth was sitting in front of them within the data.
For example, Varian sites an experience Lou Gerstner faced prior to joining IBM as CEO.
Externally, “he asked people how the company was doing, and everyone gave it a C. Then, when he got to the company, he asked the same question: ‘How’re we doing?’ And the answer was: ‘All our customers give us an A!’ So he said, ‘Where’s that data from?’ ‘Oh, we asked our sales people to collect it.’
If we can learn anything from this little Varian anecdote it’s that there remains a large disconnect between having data and understanding it and that is something all businesses will have to take a hard look at changing, soon.
Image Source: filipspagnoli.wordpress.com