Leaders today increasingly turn to big data and advanced analytics in hopes of solving their most pressing problems, whether it’s a drop-off of repeat customers, a shift in consumption patterns, or an attempt to reach new markets. The prevailing thought is that more data is better, especially given advancements in tools and technologies such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.
But when it comes to uncovering the motivations and rationale behind individual behaviors within a social system, data can only do so much. It can guide the discovery of a problem, but it won’t determine the solution. In other words, data analytics can tell you what is happening, but it will rarely tell you why. To effectively bring together the what and the why — a problem and its cause, in order to find a probable solution — leaders need to combine the advanced capabilities of big data and analytics with tried-and-true qualitative approaches such as interviewing groups of individuals, conducting focus groups, and in-depth observation.
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