by Michael Burgess

In a recent QA article, we looked at how organisations need to develop skills and capabilities for the digital age to become the ‘organisation of the future’. The first article in this data science series looks at how highly trained and motivated data scientists are crucial to meet this need. These organisational development needs are neatly summarised as the "New Rules"*, three of which are particularly relevant:

  • Proactively leading the market – rather than just responding to the competition.
  • Handling disruption and change – before it happens.
  • Anticipating, meeting and exceeding rising expectations with suggested new and improved customer experiences.

How do you ‘learn from data’ – and why do we need more data scientists?

Data scientists, AI and machine learning specialists uncover hidden trends to inform business strategy, product development and resource management – as well as wider questions of political, cultural and economic development.

Human decision-making and technology evolved along with the species – and with our cultural development – and history shows, is not always rational. We have now reached a rather curious point where science is able to reliably achieve ‘miracles’ unrecognisable just decades ago, while ordinary citizens decline life-saving medicine out of superstitious fears and phobias.

In-between this spectrum lies the decision-making approach of the business world. Businesses typically rely on a mixture of:

  • Intuition (which might be called "reasonable prejudices")
  • Superstition (which might be called "unreasonable prejudices") and
  • Empirical data-driven, repeatable and testable deliberation.

Intuition definitely has its place. As Holbrook Jackson said, ‘Intuition is reason in a hurry’ and it is the brilliance of a renowned business leader to infer cultural trends, market wants, and directions (and then make the right call). But wouldn’t it be better for organisations - and for society - if that intuition was supported by more than the Chairman’s whim?

In todays’ digital age, clues about the future lie hidden in the patterns that connect our daily financial, medical, social, online, economic, political, cultural and intellectual interactions. ‘What are the people of the United Kingdom concerned with right now?’ is no longer a question for a newspaper editor, but best answered by Google's ‘most searched questions’. Google not only records questions posed, their answers, and their implied preoccupations – but it connects these to, for example: potential disease outbreaks, political and newsworthy stories and worldly events happening everywhere, right now.

This ability to see widely and to see deeply; to turn questions which seem highly speculative into concretely answerable queries, to know something novel in a moment that no-one has known before: this is ‘learning from data’. It is enabled by machines which operate at a vast scale that process or "learn" trends within. It is the brilliance of a Data Scientist to confirm them, to reject them, and to uncover what yet might not have been seen.

Are your leaders still ‘betting the bank’ without using Data Science?

Does your business collect a large amount of data no one is looking at? Do you throw away data you don't need, and miss what's hidden inside? Planning your own digital Transformation and wish to make decisions based on real insight? Then consider QA's data science and big data and machine learning programmes to introduce leaders to these concepts; to enable data-driven business thinking; and to train-up your data-science and machine-learning experts in their Big-Data implementation.

Look out for part two of the data science series... coming soon.

About QA Group

QA helps individuals and organisations achieve their potential through world-class learning strategy and solutions. This includes: training and certification, innovative talent solutions that solve both business-critical skills and capability gaps, business transformation solutions, enabling change and transformation through engagement and education of workforces, and Managed Learning Services. In addition, QA provides consultancy, apprenticeships and postgraduate degrees on a range of technical, business and leadership subjects. With over 22 UK training centres and a range of online learning options, QA offers an unparalleled set of learning solutions to both private and public sector organisations.

*Deloitte regularly undertakes UK-specific research, and to quote their key finding in 2017: ‘The organisation of the future’ emerged as the prime focus ... with talent acquisition and learning highest on the business agenda.’ - Human Capital Trends. UK Supplement 2017 – Top 5 challenges for HR.