Are You Configuring The Future to Suit The Facts?

“I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, A Scandal in Bohemia.

sherlock holmes

According to German psychologist, Gerd Gerzenger of the Max Plank Institute, relying on your intuition may be your best decision in times of uncertainty. The flip side is that complex analysis may be preferable (to intuition), when one has to explain the past, the future is highly predictable, or there are large amounts of information.

When it comes to the field of conflict management services, supply and demand, my observation is that intuition has largely taken centre stage. We think we know what people want. Yet, reluctant to step out of our comfort zones, we aren’t about to bet the farm on what we (don’t) know.

Why are we largely clueless? I believe we are lacking sufficient demand side information and data. There’s plenty of “professionals” to go around.

Hello Big Data

Recent happenings:

I attended (Advancing DR) Justin Corbett’s webinar for ADRHub CyberWeek, on Trends In Conflict Throughout the United States as Recorded in Online Search Queries. Justin is doing some amazing work on the big data front, and is just getting going! Via Google Search, and other sources, he’s assembling a picture of conflict not previously available. I’m so looking forward to his report when it comes out next year. It’s sure to be disruptive.  Justin is trending.

I read Christian Rudder’s (@ChristianRudder) book, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking). Rudder is co-founder of OKCupid, one of America’s top online dating sites. Dataclysm is a fascinating read; informative, insightful, and a wee bit voyeuristic (as can be expected when you have access to romance-oriented human behavioural data, on a massive scale). Recommended.

In numerous conversations with virtual colleagues, on the topic of big data, there is interest, across the board, in big data and its’ potential. Previously, I highlighted the work of Vibrant Data Labs and their work data mining 24,000 TEDx talks. An (big data) arms race is obviously underway.

Facts and The Law of Large Numbers

“The Law of Large Numbers: the full truth of data is only revealed over a large sample. Imaging a mysterious die. You can’t count the sides but you can roll it and see what comes up. Roll once and you could get any number. You learn nothing. Roll it a bunch of times, you get the distribution, you get the average… You know the shape only through aggregation.” ~ Christian Rudder

The field of conflict management services needs large numbers.  Otherwise, we’re relying too much on our intuition. Our understanding of consumer needs is suspect.


Image credit: James Heyworth on


  1. Michael Toebe says

    Ben, this idea of yours is important. We will become more desirable, effective and profitable when we do greater research to determine customer and client-specific data and learn how to better and best serve. We need to do results-based research as well to earn more trust and opportunities.

  2. Yes, good point Michael re earning trust and opportunities. With more data, hopefully we will be positioned to honestly show (vs. tell) people the value of our services; building trust and opportunity.

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