Well, we have a new oracle, and it’s name is big data, or we call it “Watson” or “deep learning” or “neural net.” And these are the kinds of questions we ask of our oracle now, like, “What’s the most efficient way to ship these phones from China to Sweden?” Or, “What are the odds of my child being born with a genetic disorder?” Or, “What are the sales volume we can predict for this product?”

Now, despite the size of this industry, the returns are surprisingly low. Investing in big data is easy, but using it is hard. Over 73 percent of big data projects aren’t even profitable, and I have executives coming up to me saying, “We’re experiencing the same thing. We invested in some big data system, and our employees aren’t making better decisions. And they’re certainly not coming up with more breakthrough ideas.”

You have to keep in mind, iPhones had just come out, it was 2009, so this was, like, eight years ago, and Androids had just started looking like iPhones. And a lot of very smart and realistic people said, “Those smartphones – that’s just a fad. Who wants to carry around these heavy things where batteries drain quickly and they break every time you drop them?” But I had a lot of data, and I was very confident about my insights, so I was very excited to share them with Nokia. But Nokia was not convinced, because it wasn’t big data. They said, “We have millions of data points, and we don’t see any indicators of anyone wanting to buy a smartphone, and your data set of 100, as diverse as it is, is too weak for us to even take seriously.” And I said, “Nokia, you’re right. Of course you wouldn’t see this, because you’re sending out surveys assuming that people don’t know what a smartphone is, so of course you’re not going to get any data back about people wanting to buy a smartphone in two years. Your surveys, your methods have been designed to optimize an existing business model, and I’m looking at these emergent human dynamics that haven’t happened yet. We’re looking outside of market dynamics so that we can get ahead of it.” Well, you know what happened to Nokia? Their business fell off a cliff. This – this is the cost of missing something. It was unfathomable.

https://www.ted.com/talks/tricia_wang_the_human_insights_missing_from_big_data