Can big data inspire creative thinking? Absolutely. Big data can be an inspirational element, but I believe I have shown by example that big data by itself is rather sterile and untamed. We are inspired by the world around us and this would include the tools and applications of big data in our world. Is this to say that big data is the only, or most important inspiration? No. Big data should be seen as a tool to help us in our creative thinking, but we must understand and be critical of its use in elevating our new solutions. Companies and agencies that embrace the new tools which leverage big data will find themselves at an advantage, those that don’t are missing potential creative solutions they could not achieve otherwise.
2 areas where big data and creativity meet in marketing today:
Big data can be widely helpful in optimization problems, where general rules are known and patterns can be detected from enough observations. This is why it works well in optimizing media buys or predicting demand within a tight time-frame, given no fundamental shifts in the environment – in other words, no new mediums or new products.
Marketers are testing, rapidly refining and optimizing multiple digital messages to find the “winning” message for broad use. Once a few possible messages have been determined, then they can be tested with or without the use of big data. However, here again it is humans who are providing the source material and parameters. This process still requires a creative step to come up with the options to test and optimize.
The next frontier — artful systems design
It is my assertion that this assembly of systems and solutions which leverage big data for its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses will be the platform that companies and agencies will win on in the coming decade. Call it “architecture” or “systems thinking”, but the creativity and design of processes, as well as the systems that artfully do what could not be achieved before by the individual components, is truly inspirational. The reward, if the achievement is recognized, will be high.
My concern for those who are successful is that with all the noise of big data, there is not at this time a clear authority that can distinguish the good from the ugly, and many achievements will go unnoticed for some time. Similarly, the risk is high in getting it wrong. It could be a repeat of the boom of CRM systems in the 1990’s when company after company spent tens of millions of dollars on implementing systems that they still struggle to convince the sales force to use to this day.
For those that do get it right, I hope they highlight the ingenuity and talents that got them to the elegant solution and don’t just chalk it up to a better “black box”. With this great hope for beautiful and artful systems, there will still be many that achieve equal rewards without it because, at least for now, big data cannot tackle by itself the meaning that customer’s desire.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.