Look out for a C-Suite workshop facilitated by John Smythe in October with IORMA – International Omni Retail Markets Association with Barbara Walker (ex CBI)

Many of us associate Big Data with understanding and influencing customers.  It started there but we are learning that Big Data is and will provide leaders with the ability to reduce thousands of strategic and operational options to a few weighted and prioritised ones, thus accelerating and honing their decision making. 

Leaders don’t need to be geeks to do this though.  They just need to be open to the notion that leadership is not just gut instinct – it can be gut instinct after a lot of spurious options have been eliminated by Big Data analysis.  Those that do embrace Big Data to accelerate decision making will race ahead of luddites that don’t. 

That’s dilemma one.

Dilemma two is that Big Data analysis is and will enable leaders to apply it to understanding the needs, issues and ideas of their colleagues, employees and partners.  Big data is and will review all the stand alone influences on employees like e mail traffic, social media, data from platforms like Jive, Yammer, IBM Jam etc,  formal company messages and everything else on line (but not water cooler chat unless there is organised eves dropping ….). 

And from it deduce the needs, issues, themes, cynicism and ideas of employees. 

Put positively this will enable employers to respond or even pre-empt issues. The German government uses such techniques to understand the needs, issues and priorities of Germany’s citizens. 

Put negatively it could become the equivalent of the UK’s GCHQ which uses the same technology to identify and prioritise terrorist threats and neutralise them via the police.  As someone from GCHQ said to me – ‘the population don’t know the half of what is out there; happily we manage to nail most of them before they harm us’ – thank you GCHQ and our police forces.  It’s a good use of Big Data for these security purposes but it could become Big Brother in corporations by default if we don’t air the dangers and opportunities properly and soon.


These two dilemmas will be aired at a joint IORMA and Engage for Change event in late October – date and venue to be set – IORMA will manage the process.

Big Data has hitherto been largely the preserve of marketing but it will impact the employee relationship and the role and purpose of top leadership.