Today’s real-time analytics obsession, tomorrow’s forgotten innovation

David Bowie's The Next Day

David Bowie released his new album, The Next Day, a few months back. I’ve still not had a chance to listen to it yet but the title itself was provocative enough for this post.

The disciplines of Big Data and real-time predictive analytics present organizations with the ability to understand behaviour at a relentless pace and also predict consumer patterns in order to take advantage of incoming opportunity.

In fact, consumer society today is almost a mirror image of businesses thirst for data in the here and now. We scan through emails as soon as they arrive, check Twitter and Facebook notifications instantaneously, root out a story to satisfy a hunger to know what’s going on, right here right now. Both organization and consumer are entrenched in the surrounding real-time data that none are actually bothering to dream big or think about tomorrow.

Being buried in today we seem to have forgotten all the little things we used to enjoy. For example, peppered in musical history are lyrics telling us to stop and smell the roses.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality – John Lennon

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow – Fleetwood Mac

Think of tomorrow. Think of tomorrow – Chris Isaak

It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes! – Les Miserables

Big Data and real-time/ right-time analytics present a challenge. Left unchecked they can turn a business to focus inward and forget about innovation in the same way that society is forgetting to plan and dream for a new day. Our minds are so busy being occupied with what’s happening right now we have no time to consider what future lies ahead of us, let alone try to shape one and so the same applies in business, we are so focused on predicting and reacting to events as fast as we can that we have no time or capacity to innovate.

Predicting the future is not the same as building a future. Real-time analytics give us insight and windows of opportunity but they do not control how we innovate and think about tomorrow and that difference needs to be understood and heeded before a business embarks on a Big Data grail quest.

Forget that difference and you might as well forget the next day.

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