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[New Research] What Do We Do with All This Big Data?

Susan Etlinger

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report-cover-big-dataIn September, I had the opportunity to speak at TED@IBM in San Francisco about the implications of a data-rich world, and what we can do, as businesspeople, citizens, and consumers, to use it to our best advantage.

Since then, I've had dozens of conversations — at conferences, in person, online and serendipitously — about the two main themes of the talk: how do we extract real insight from data, and how do we do so in a way that actually retains and builds trust?

These are huge questions, and they deserve serious and ongoing investigation. This will be the core of my research agenda this year. I'll be speaking with technology users, business leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars and technologists to better understand how they see these challenges and what they can tell us about how to extract insight from complex data at scale. We'll look at emerging technologies, changing organizational dynamics, research methodologies and decision-making. We'll look at the criteria needed to deliver capabilities such as predictive analytics, and how they affect tool requirements, culture and organizational design.

And I'll be breaking down discussions of "ethics" — so easy to push aside in favor of more "concrete" issues--into actionable themes that we, as an industry, must address. Where we get our data, how we extract and enrich it, how we mix it with other data, how we use it and how we communicate about what we're doing — all are open to scrutiny. As part of this research, I'll be looking at existing case law, speaking with the legal community and working with colleagues at The Big Boulder Initiative--a group of academics, brand representative and technologists — who are passionate about advancing the useful and ethical use of social data.

This document is just a first step toward setting context for the many disruptions of ubiquitous and complex data, but it includes preliminary frameworks to help us examine these issues in more detail, and recommendations on what steps to take to use data strategically and ethically in a business context. 

I hope it acts as a catalyst for further discussion, and I'll be building on and deepening these findings throughout the year.

As always, please weigh in with questions and feedback. I'll link to substantive posts, as always.

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