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Have you ever been frustrated with your business executives and their lack of understanding about data, where it comes from, how it should be used? Have you been irritated by your CXO not knowing the difference between predictive and prescriptive analytics? Well, there is some hope on the way.
I recently attended the 25th reunion of my business school graduation (Kellogg 94’ – Go Cats!). At every reunion, the school has mini 1-hour seminars on different topics. These talks, given by professors at the University, represent a one-hour intro/summary of the classes they are currently teaching. What stood out to me this year was the first-time inclusion of data and data analytics topics in the curriculum. So while those of us in the data and big data space have been talking about the importance of data-driven decision making for years, the fact that future business leaders are being trained on the value of data and basic data concepts is a sign that data really is hitting the mainstream.
Keep in mind that 10 years ago at my last reunion, there were exactly ZERO, count ‘em, ZERO sessions on data analytics. This is a pretty dramatic change, and in my opinion, fantastic evolution for business school curriculum. Some of the sessions that were presented included:
AI for Business Executives: What, So What and Now What
The Artificial Intelligence revolution is sweeping across industries and functions. What is the hype and what is real? What is AI and how can it help your business? Where should you look for opportunities to use AI to solve problems in your business?
Persuasive Data Visualization
Your story – an argument, solution or a pitch – relies on solid data. Using the latest research in data visualization and visual perception, this session will combine and overview of design techniques with hands-on exercises to illustrate how to tell clear stories from your data, to upward and outward audiences of varied technical and topical expertise.
Leading with Advanced Analytics and AI
Nearly every company wants to utilize advance analytics and AI to drive growth, but few have succeeded. In this session, you will learn about how Kellogg is tacking this issue and helping firms have success with analytics and AI.
For the most part, this is great news. Data analytics has become a major differentiator between good companies and great companies. In a December 2018 report, Forrester Research estimates that “insights-driven public companies will Grow at least seven times faster than global GDP.” So, training future managers on how to use data analytics more effectively is mostly a good thing.
However, there were several cautionary tales of how data can easily be misused. For example, one story was told about a company that used data to show that people who saw google ads for specific makes and models of cars and also saw ads for specific dealerships were more likely to actually buy a car. This led them to increase their search advertising spend, supporting the marketing managers goal to show the power of online ads. However, it turns out that consumers only saw these ads because they were already searching for the make, model and dealership. The viewing of the ads was a result of a behavior they in which they were already engaged. More research ultimately showed that running the ads didn’t actually make a difference in buying behavior.
The risk in all of this is that data analytics is a very powerful tool in the hands of A-type personalities (who attend business school), some of whom can easily use data and data analytics to match the conclusions they want to reach. That has always been the case. I would argue that if more managers are educated in understanding the proper use of data analytics, there is a greater chance that data will get interpreted properly. The net-net of it all is that over time, your business management is going to be more conversant in the terminology and value of data and data analytics and that should lead to even more opportunities for those of us who have looked to make a career in the data world.