A looming battle

A battle awaits, yet to be fought – but one that will impact on individual people, businesses and supply chains all over the world. One that is shaping up on a field of ones and zeros, where almost everything we do, say, transact, move, consume, watch, or experience has the potential to be a data point that someone else can track, measure, analyse and use.

I work with company’s on a daily basis around their data strategy – how they can unlock greater value from the data they hold internally, how they can use new sources of data and integrate that data together to be more effective at what they do.

In many cases there are many large companies playing catchup – they don’t have the institutional capability to use data in a smart or efficient way – too many decisions are made on instinct, traditional functional processes, or simply with a lagging view of the past.

But this isn’t the major problem I see – it is the obsession with using data to understand ‘consumers’ that will allow greater ‘targeting’, ‘segmentation’, ‘advertising’.

Your average ‘consumer’ or real person to you and me, are way ahead of most large companies in what they understand and see. There is an increasing awareness of how much data we create that others collect and use. And yet, little of this data seems to me to be used in ways that genuinely make our lives better. It is used to serve ads up to us, to guess products that we don’t need but might want to buy, or intersect products at the moment of intent to buy – but not to create services and products that we genuinely want.

What will happen if between the pincers of legislation and democratic action – busineses are not able to collect, track and utilise these data streams as they can today? What will happen will be a large amount of businesses, marketers, and supply chains that will be stuck – their life blood will be cut off, or at the least, will be made much more difficult.

I believe that people quite like the unpredictability of life, the randomness, the exploration, and the experiences we didn’t anticpiate. Yes, we want utility and usefulness with greater efficiency – but I believe we want the other more chaotic side too.

What if businesses were to forget about data for a while, forget about the constant drive to predict and target their customers & potential customers – and instead work with people in a transparent & collaborative way to create products, experiences and values that are exciting, interesting and long lasting.

What about seeing people and data through the filters which make up our personal value – our life? It is well established that our human captial consists of the financial, educational, physical, social, individual, and emotional components. If we focused on making our products and services more relevant through these lenses – we could create meaningful interactions and experiences that we actually WANTED, rather than reducing people to the level of binary data points in order to ‘understand’ our behaviour.

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