Big Data vs. Real Life: Lessons Learned Across Cultures | EYE ON ASIA

Big Data vs. Real Life: Lessons Learned Across Cultures

My Mind Was Blown

I vividly remember reading an article from Microsoft back in 2013 about how 90% of all existing data in the world at that time were produced only within the past two years. Ka-pow!

Innovative technology is being developed to tackle the huge rate of data growth in the digital age. Indeed, big data analytics has become the number one concern of the modern market research world and I can't help but wonder: can aggregate 'intimate' data really answer all our questions? Can machine learning algorithms truly understand and predict people’s behavior?

 

Two Examples of Big Data Matching My Experiences

When I was working in Asia, I used to receive a lot of requests for proposals related to motorcycles in Vietnam. Each time, without fail, my clients would consult me on the incidence rate of motorcycle ownership in that developing country. Based on the information shared by our on-site team, my reply would always be 'close to 80%'. This information was a set of data, living in the back of my mind disconnected from my daily reality.

 

Big Data vs. Real Life: Lessons Learned Across Cultures

 

Until I visited Ho Chi Minh City…

Imagine a sea of motorcycles clogging the bustling streets as far as your eyes can see. Overwhelming, amazing, mind-boggling. This experience reminded me of my first trip to Japan when I was taken aback by a throng of salarymen on the Yamanote subway line in Tokyo; a mass of dark blue suits, white shirts, and similar-looking briefcases.

 

Both of these scenes, both in Asia, provided me with 'connect the dots' moments. What used to be numbers on a spreadsheet now took on a whole new meaning. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work in the industry in both Asia and in the US, and I'd like to think that this unique background has significantly broadened my vision as I learned new things from both sides of the world.

 

What I’ve Learned in Asia and the U.S.

What I've learned is that it's too easy to over-fetishize data in a world where the digital media revolution is in full swing. We must always remember that market research, at its very core, is human-centric. To understand the why's behind all the data which just becomes readily available nowadays, researchers should truly empathize and engage with people - we each need to find our respective Hoh Chi Minh City or Tokyo.

 

dataSpring recognizes that without an equally big human insight, big data is nothing more than just a bunch of numbers. "Ask Deep Questions, Get to the Essence" is part of the CREED that our team lives by. We pride ourselves on providing our clients not only with feasibility and pricing but research grounded by deep insights into Asia.

 

This article was first published on June 29, 2015.

 

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