When driving through the streets of Washington, D.C.these days, I am overwhelmed by the city’s vibrating atmosphere. The whole world is currently looking to Washington– and I am not only talking about the 4,000 data experts visiting the Teradata Partners User Group Conference. Besides the probably most important data warehousing conference of the year, there is also a big decision pending throughout the USA, cumulated in the capital: On November 6th, the US-Americans are going to elect their president and campaigns already entered crunch mode.
Of course, the candidates’ debates are not only taking place in the capital, or solely in newspapers and on TV screens: social media channels are increasingly used to spread the candidates’ messages. While this can be a great source of information, voters sometimes find it hard to get an overview of all statements on the various issues. The websites blue2012red.xpatterns.com and red2012blue.xpatterns.com try to bring some transparency into the message jungle by filtering the tweets and Facebook statements according to different topics. Potential voters can enter any search term and subsequently receive direct links to the respective quotes that politicians left on Facebook, Twitter or RSS feeds. This example shows that big data doesn’t necessarily lead to big confusion. If you know how to use it, bigger data can make a better world. In our example both parties profit from the availability of big data: the candidates by micro-targeting their messages, and the voters by receiving more information, helping them to make their decision the best they possibly can.
And yes, decision making is a main topic at the Partners Conference, as well. I’m expecting some fiery debates on this issue at the Gaylord National Resort. We all know Teradata’s CTO Stephen Brobst promotes a strictly fact-based method when making business decisions – evaluated by analytic tools and examined by foolproof algorithms. However, at least one of our Keynote Speakers may have divergent opinions on that: Or wouldn’t Malcom Gladwell, staff writer at The New Yorker, rather go with his gut and make decisions according to his intuition? In his bestseller book “Blink: The power of thinking without thinking” (2005), he stated that “we need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that - sometimes - we're better off that way”. At first glance, this sounds like a complete contrast to the aim of the entire data warehousing business. But doesn’t Gladwell simply tell us, that sometimes acting quickly is more important than searching for more facts? When making a decision based on intuition, we try to take into account all of our relevant experiences, analyzing them within the blink of an eye, as the title of Gladwell’s bestseller states. Could this even be the equivalent to the growing relevance of real-time analytics in an ever-accelerating world? Anyhow, I’m sure Gladwell will enrich our debates with some thought-provoking statements – and isn’t that an essential part of any discussion?
A third perspective on decision-making comes from a completely different angle: John Cleese, world famous actor and comedian, thinks that creativity and humor are the clue to smart decisions. Back in 1991, in a much-noticed lecture, he explained that “creativity is not a talent; it is a way of operating”. A way that is only possible when being in an “open” mode. This mode, according to Cleese, is achieved with the help of humor. Knowing that Cleese is a master of comedy, I hope he will therefore put us in an “open mode” to discuss the various topics of the conference. And besides make this conference not only one of the most informative, but also one of the most entertaining business events throughout 2012.
But don’t let all these shimmery guests distract you from the other keynote speakers, Mike Koehler, Darryl McDonald and Scott Gnau, who also have something to say when it comes to making the best decision possible. Not to mention the more than 300 other sessions on business and technical topics. I can’t wait to get the conference started and enjoy the promising spirit of Washington, D.C. And, compared to this year’s Universe Conference in Dublin, I am most happy to lean back and assume the guest’s role this time.