Skip to main content

Businesses need data philosophers to act on analytics

Richard Jones Archive

The massive growth of big data has led to an explosion of new job opportunities. As companies have realized the tremendous potential they have to gather more information and use it to improve their operations, they have begun to uncover many more opportunities to employ data-oriented people within their offices.

According to CNNMoney, help can't come fast enough. The business world is desperate for more talent, and if it doesn't find it soon, we could be looking at a serious labor shortage. The news source cites survey data from McKinsey and Company, which predicts a shortfall of between 140,000 and 190,000 "deep analytical" big data professionals by 2018.

Companies need people with a wide variety of different skills. They need people who can gather information, use cloud solutions and other resources for storage, ensure data quality and ultimately analyze information. In other words, companies needs span from IT to sociology to mathematics.

It would be a mistake to assume that all businesses need is tech-savvy people. In more general terms, what they really seek is people who know how to think. Critical thinking skills aren't always easy to find.

A need for philosophers
What many companies need today is a philosopher - someone who can take in all the insights being gleaned from big data, process them and turn them into promising business plans.

For example, say a film studio realizes that teenage boys aren't watching its films, or a car manufacturer isn't selling enough vehicles to older moms with multiple children. What can a company do with this information? Data scientists can uncover truths, but creative minds are needed to devise solutions.

Jim Harris, author of the OCDQ Blog, believes that companies could reap tremendous benefits from the marriage of data and philosophy. Harris invoked scientist Stuart Firestein, author of the book "Ignorance: How It Drives Science."

"There is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome," Firestein explained. "Clearly what we need is a crash course in citizen science - a way to humanize science so that it can be both appreciated and judged by an informed citizenry. Aggregating facts is useless if you don't have a context to interpret them."

That's the next step in the big data revolution - companies today are already armed with a great deal of information, but what they sometimes lack is the critical thinking ability needed to process it all.