Algorithms can't tell the whole story - we need a broader range of skills to turn their insights into services that speak to us as human beings
Technology's cool. Whatever you want, technology can connect you to it, from superfood salads to soulmates. Not only has it brought us boundless choice and instant delivery, it's got a whole lot better at working out what we're going to like before we even start looking.
The fuel that drives all this wizardry is personal data. Amazon knows everything we've bought or even browsed. Facebook knows what we like and who we know. Google goes with us everywhere and knows everything we're curious about. These Tech Titans trawl through vast pools of data for clues to what could be the next indispensable service for their users.
Data scientists dominate this new world, but the truth is they don't have all the answers. In super-sensitive areas like our financial lives, where the data reveals everything we earn and exactly how we spend it, striking the wrong tone or making inappropriate recommendations isn't just mildly irritating or inconvenient to the customer. It could nuke their relationship with the brand. This is why companies are failing their customers and themselves if all they do is deploy squadrons of data scientists.
Success demands a different approach. Data is just the raw material that seeds more personal and more human interactions between brands and consumers. Data Scientists can uncover the need, but moving from that discovery to a personalised interaction – one that both meets the need and does so in a way that feels appropriate, human and pleasurable – demands the sort of skills that Data Artists bring to the table.
Who are the Data Artists?
To succeed in the Open Future, companies must first find their data (don't laugh – many never look at it, let alone put it to worthwhile use). They must augment it with other data sets to provide fresh perspectives on their customers. And they must torture the data to reveal un-met and under-served customer needs.
The question is, can they hear what the data is telling them about individuals' needs, and how these individuals relate to one another and to their environments and cultures? Can they hear how people are responding to these needs? Do they understand the messages? And do they know what people will find acceptable?
Once they can answer yes, they can act, knowing that they'll be doing so with positive intent, and integrity. But if they rely only on Data Scientists, they'll struggle to get there.