Collective Intelligence for Business Intelligence (or: Why Kids with Big Feet have Better Handwriting) – from recent Timo Elliott Interview

Is this all the proof we need this child got an A+ in penmanship?!

Is this all the proof we need this child got an A+ in Handwriting?! Photo: A Taridona  (Flickr CC)

I came across a great interview of Timo Elliott, Senior Product Director for SAP Business Objects by Ajay Ohri (DecisionStats). Timo Elliot was employee number 8 for (SAP) Business Objects!

Timo Elliott weighs in thoughtfully on a number of different BI topics and future BI challenges, but the part of the interview that stood out for me was Timo Elliott’s comments when asked about BI and social media. Social media facilitates communication between lots of people, which could be used to enable large teams to collectively interpret business intelligence results; in other words, using collective intelligence as an aid for effective business intelligence:

Conversations and collaboration are an essential part of effective business intelligence … (W)hile it’s vital to try to give everybody access to the same data, there will always be plenty of room for interpretation and discussion. BI platforms need to support this collaborative decision-making.

In particular, there are many, many studies that show up our all-too-human limitations when it comes to analyzing data. For example, did you know that children with bigger feet have better handwriting?

It’s absolutely true — because the children are older!

Mixing up correlation and causality is a common issue in business intelligence… (emphasis added).

Amen to that! I started off this blog with a post on the need to apply business wisdom when utilizing business intelligence. I like how Timo Elliot takes the solution to avoid jumping to false conclusions with BI a step further:

(O)ne answer to the problem is to add more people: the more reviewers there are of the decision-making process, the better the decisions will be.

Points very well taken.  So, in addition to the business intelligence best practice of “doing the right things right by measuring the right things right” as discussed earlier on this blog (here and then here!), let’s add this additional BI best practice of enabling and encouraging collaborative interpretation of business intelligence results; that is, leveraging the power of collective intelligence for business intelligence.

If you liked this article, you may also like:

Slow down, Cowboy! How BI Users can Avoid the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

Business Intelligence is a Diagnostic Tool, but is the “Patient” Willing to Listen?

Back to the Future of Business Intelligence with H.P. Luhn


One thought on “Collective Intelligence for Business Intelligence (or: Why Kids with Big Feet have Better Handwriting) – from recent Timo Elliott Interview

  1. Hey Mike –
    Good posting. I would like to add an additional thought for you and your readers on the power of Social Media on Business Intelligence.
    A common drawback to having MORE people review the same data is TIME. In many industries and businesses, doing something now can be better than doing the exact right thing a month from now.
    Social Media can decrease the amount of time it take to have many people review, analyze and discuss the data together, leading not only to better analysis, but done so in a timely manner.

    Keep the great thoughts coming!

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