Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 30 2014

Why You Can Stop Worrying So Much About Big Data

By David McMillin


By now, plenty of meeting professionals have probably heard enough about big data. What big data can do to increase traffic on the trade show floor, how it can predict attendee preferences, why every organization needs to be investing in big data analysis — the list goes on. If you’re tired of hearing about the wonders of big data, this article delivers some good news: all that information doesn’t hold the magic key to a promising future.

Luke Williams, Adjunct Professor of Innovation at NYU Stern School of Business, believes organizations are placing far too much weight on crunching statistics. While data can certainly help uncover potential opportunities and hidden trends, Williams advised meeting professionals at the 2014 PCMA Education Conference in Toronto to recognize that data cannot deliver all the answers.

“There’s far too much emphasis today in predicting and far too little emphasis on provocation,” Williams said. “Too many companies think that enough data analysis can pave the way to what you want to do, but data isn’t everything.”

“You have to ask the questions that no one else in your industry is asking,” Williams added.

SEE ALSO: How To Unleash Your Team’s Creativity

Across today’s tech-focused business landscape, it’s easy to assume that a new tool is going to be able to automatically uncover everything your organization needs to know. Since you are unable to constantly monitor where your attendees are, what they’re doing and how they’re feeling, a big data mining can surely collect all the insights, right? That algorithm can magically pump out the solution for elevating your next meeting, can’t it? Wrong.

Williams stressed the importance of creating an environment where everyone is contributing their own thoughts to fuel a new level of creativity. He lamented the self-similarity principle, which is a need to surround ourselves with people who think and act just like us. Rather than spend time brainstorming with people who agree with your ideas, Williams recommends aiming to collaborate with many people who have different outlooks on the world.

“To increase the pace of innovation, you have to increase the number of ideas getting together,” Williams said.

SEE ALSO: Channeling Disruptive Thinking For Your Next Event

However, those ideas aren’t always going to mesh well, and if you’re truly going to accomplish something noteworthy with your meeting, the ideas aren’t going to look anything like the past.

“If you’re really leading disruptive change for the conference industry, it should be a very uncomfortable process,” Williams said.

Despite the need to focus less on collecting and combing through information at your meeting, big data does still play a role in paving the way toward success. Click here to learn how big data makes meetings smarter.

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