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Does Big Data Diminish Leadership Purpose?

Big data is really big. So is analytics. Our interns all want to get a job in those areas, so they can hit one out of the park.

The big idea is that Big Data can help us uncover insights especially into how consumers act, so we can get them to buy more, and, to be fair, to better meet their needs.

Big Data is transforming business, companies and even the government. It is forcing organizations to be truly clinical and analytical in their approach to making more profit, reducing costs and increasing service.

I’ve noticed recently that the notion of purpose is coming back into vogue. By that is meant a higher purpose. Not just making more profits and increasing shareholder value but making the world a better place.

I think there are some founders of big tech companies who are doing that. Not so with the vast majority of leaders who are not founders. Maybe they have no choice. Their employer/shareholders require that they make money, and nothing else counts.

Consumers have numerous needs. Big Data is helping them meet them. But what if their only need is to be saved from certain death or terrible pain and injury?

Recently I went to a talk by a doctor from the international medical relief organization Doctors without Borders (often known by its French name, Medecins sans Frontieres – MSF).

Full disclosure: I’ve been a donor for longer than I can remember. I’m a huge supporter of their work. So you’ve got to dole out huge dollops of realism to compensate for my bias.

The doctor was in his 70s. He’s been on 7 missions so far. He says he thinks he can do one more before he hangs up his shingle.

That’s something. All of his missions were in hot war areas and almost all in active combat zones with every chance of being injured or killed.

BTW when he got the call to come, it was usually the day before he flew out.

I’ve posted on DWB before; on their work in the Ebola crisis a couple of years ago (Protocol versus Passion – EBOLA and the Doctors without Borders Leadership Model).

Th argument is that for leadership that has a purpose, you must have passion. Big Data, however sexy, just doesn’t cut it.

This particular doctor, who would cut me off if I used his name, wouldn’t have known much or anything about Big Data. Too old, and too busy with people.

But his passion, focus on this work and his insights into how to help people, were obvious.

I’m not against Big Data. But I think somewhere it’s got to be balanced by purpose; otherwise we’ve all missed something really big.

Big Data is all well and good. But we can’t let it get in the way of purpose, especially given the way the world is going.

If we can’t do it ourselves, we need to support those amazing people who do it for us, like my doctor in DWB.

Click here to set up a regular donation to Doctors without Borders.

BTW they don't take donations from governments so they can be totally neutral in any situation. So we are the only ones who can help.




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