Collecting Data vs. Hoarding Data

Sam Ransbotham (MIT Sloan Management Review), in a recent post, cautions organizations that “more data” is not the answer to every problem. In considering the promise of analytics he states, “Organizations that add data indiscriminately run the risk of becoming data hoarders instead of data collectors.” He includes a quote from a financial services analyst that beautifully states the issue: “Hoarders store everything and don’t know how to determine what is important. Collectors know exactly what is available and prioritize what to keep.” How very true! Tactility, think of the issue of data hoarding this way: visualize a library shelf that is cluttered and jammed tight with books and materials of little value. Adding more materials, good or mediocre, will only make finding the key, needed information even more difficult. Collection development, which involves intensive weeding, is all about the quality of the collection, not the acquisition of materials.

Mr. Ransbotham, using “the spirit of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics” suggests these laws to consider when deciding to add more data. They are directly quoted:

Law 1: “More data” should not obscure desirable information or, through distraction, allow ongoing analyses to come to harm.

Law 2: “More data” should be added only if other data will not suffice and its addition does not conflict with the First Law.

Law 3: “More data” should be added only if its addition does not exacerbate existing biases in the data, and its addition does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Law 0: “More data” must not harm the overall analytical process.

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