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December 11, 2008

Algorithmic error

We live in a world of duality – light and shade, expansion and contraction, the list is endless. Biology, technology, art and science, right brain, left brain, they’re perpetually intertwined.

Data has evolved into a mental deluge as part of operational consciousness. When even the smartest of organizations can find it hard to process it all, let alone interpret it, maybe algorithmic error and human error are still not that far removed from one another, at potentially great cost. The old adage of ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’ remains.

Algorithmic error

As we get technically more savvy, humanness is also coming to the fore as its natural counterpoint.

The cumulative effects of a miniscule miscalculation means it’s still all too easy to go off the tracks when data informs what we do. This is why tribes are so important and have such allure today; they protect and validate their own.

One of the hardest things to factor into any equation is that curiosity does not collude with calculation, and when one attempts to streamline and restrict it, somehow life finds a way to escape.

We want rapport in our lives, every bit as much as any analysis, and business needs this. It’s the personal stories that are most illuminating, the ones on the fringes that have the most to offer. We crave uniformity, the comfort and reassurance of code, but also love the lure of the new, the things that are different and make things interesting and fresh. 

The other day a woman joined a train next to me in well-worn biking gear and perfect make-up. She defied categorization. It was clear from the get-go that hers was a deftly crafted commute, individually styled and accessorized, a tale made up of a catalogue of potentially conflicting life-choices that no one without the most appreciative and detailed of insights would have had a chance to understand.

So who captures her story? Who connects with her as she puts together her portfolio for personal brand consumption? How is behavioural analysis going to help build a relationship with her? What's going to make her feel prepared to share?

The difficulty with data is that it’s a numbers game, not a people game. Brands that are data heavy and look at consumers from the outside in should beware.

Science is telling us there is honesty in teams. Communities and group dynamics demand that you be yourself. This is the challenge of the inter-connected society.

The serious implication is that brands must develop the ability to function within other ecosystems and win the trust required to hear the real stories. Only by having a shot at understanding this level of complexity do they have a chance to thrive, beyond emotional connection, into visceral connection, as matter meshing together.

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You said "we want rapport in our lives not analysis"
For me I would like both. Whilst many of us are trained with a scientific background or even live in an age of evidence it remains that as humans we still try to "make sense" of the world. Storytelling and narrative is in many ways the encapsulation or concentrate of this knowledge. Hence when we tell a story to someone else we are both building rapport and designing a reality from the story. For me brands with stories (that ideally people make up) work so well. Brands with stories that resonate or connect people are even better. Brands with stories that resonate and have a visceral dimension must be the peak achievement.

Hi Anne. Excellent post. I agree, just studying the numbers just isn't going to cut it. On the other hand, several books came out this year with the opposite view.

The Numerati http://thenumerati.net/index.cfm?catID=18

Supercrunchers http://www.randomhouse.com/bantamdell/supercrunchers/

The world awaits the book, The Visceral

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