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January 28, 2016

A Data-driven Perspective from Davos

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:48 AM

A delegate browses the research report, Amplifying Human Potential
A delegate browses the research report, Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, launched by Infosys at WEF 2016.

Every year, a few thousand professionals gather in the snowy mountains of Davos, Switzerland, to try to make the world a better place. They attend seminars, speak at forums and network among themselves to gain a better understanding of trends and innovations in the race to identify the next blockbusters. Old friends meet again, networks are expanded and new friendships are forged. Often, these connections go on to have some kind of meaningful impact in the year ahead.

This year at the World Economic Forum's Annual meeting in Davos, I had the great honor of participating in a panel that discussed the value of data in business decisions. The panel was led by Aimia, a Canadian data-driven marketing and loyalty analytics company, and included participants from Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, universities, banks such as HSBC, the Harvard Business Review, as well as a few physicians.

The panel was called Leadership in the Data Era: How Innovative Leaders Balance Data Versus Intuition to Drive Effective Decisions, and it was held in one of the satellite hotels WEF uses in Davos.

Collecting data and every bit of it, without a doubt, has become an obsession for many companies in the past few years. What is it all for? To make better decisions ─ the professionals say. But what happened to the days when management and other decisions were taken by listening to one's gut feelings - intuition - rather than relying solely on cold hard numbers? Today's senior managers tend to describe their decision-making style as "data-driven". But the relationship between analysis and intuition is complex and even data jockeys rely on intuition and gut judgment for some decisions. One interesting insight emerged from the healthcare industry. Doctors always have a gut feeling about what ails the patient, yet they rely on some research, some reports, and data to validate or invalidate the gut feeling. Doctors, however, have to form early hypothesis based on their gut instincts and then research the hypothesis. Another perspective to this is that our gut feelings are shaped by our real experiences, to some extent.

A good amount of discussion dwelt upon the quality of data. For example, last November in the ATP World Tour Finals, London, where Infosys provided near real-time analytics, we found new correlations between the ball-spin that certain players were getting with their win-rates. This discovery can be attributed to the richness of data and insights available. The panel discussion also centered on how design thinking was a unique method to arrive at the right question to ask, or the right problem to solve. Overall, it was an exhilarating discussion.

The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting brings together leaders from around the world to talk about the hard stuff, the tough stuff. Inspired and energized, we left Davos to capitalize on our newly won knowledge and to put into practice what we learned.

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