Only Enough Data to Cause Paralysis: A Timeless Message About Big Data

You might think that a book about computers that was written before the Internet would have zero relevance today. Yet, not only does Guy Kawasaki’s 1988 book "The MacIntosh Way" possess a timeless charm, it also contains at least one nugget that cuts to the core of one of our current burning issues: what to make of Big Data.

Says Kawasaki: "There is only enough data to cause paralysis -- never enough to make a perfect decision."

Kawasaki began his career at Apple in the early 1980s. At a time when the company's presence in the market was just a shadow, his charge was to inspire third-party developers to write software for the MacIntosh, and in that role, he carried the unofficial title of Evangelist. In recognition of his success as an evangelist, Guy was recognized as an Apple Fellow – putting him in the company of a very small corps of extraordinarily valuable visionaries.

Big Data -- Demand SolutionsGuy Kawasaki’s trademark is a genuine smile that’s positively communicable. He’s a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, author, entrepreneur and speaker. Now the author of a dozen books, Kawasaki refers to "The MacIntosh Way" as "my first child." Rather than celebrate retroactively by handing out cigars, he recently re-acquired the publishing rights to "The MacIntosh Way," and has made it available as a free download.

It's still a great read for anyone with an interest in computers, the culture of Apple or the importance of managing what matters (a frequent theme of ours).

The Signal and the Noise
More recently, Nate Silver, in his 2012 best seller “The Signal and The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t,” addressed the challenge of finding the truth (i.e. the signal) in the midst of swells of data that are more likely to be saturated with nonsense (i.e. noise).

One of the keys to finding the signal is to trust our instincts and our vision. Despite the best hardware (or fluffiest clouds), despite the slickest interfaces and most complex algorithms, there are times when we just know better than a computer. Maybe we see a sharp turning point in a trend that a computer doesn’t have enough data points to recognize. Perhaps a spike in a graph, the loss of a key customer or Dr. Oz’s mention of your product (it happens!) provides a spark or an insight that helps improve your forecast. If that awareness or insight is that meaningful to you, in all likelihood it will make an impact on your forecasts.

These two books, written a generation apart have inspired a new white paper: 12 Supply Chain Forecasting Lessons from the Signal and The Noise.

The lessons will open your eyes to the value of collaboration, plausibility, context and qualitative inputs. They include:

#5. Your forecasts should tell the story of your business, not the story of your data

#6. A good model can be useful even when it fails

#10. Share your uncertainty

The lessons could very well change how you think about forecasting. And the disciplined application of just a few of the 12 lessons could dramatically impact the forecasting process at most businesses.

You can download a copy of the white paper here.


Bill Whiteside was introduced to Demand Solutions in the late 1980s when he purchased the software for a dairy products company (his employer at the time) in Lancaster, PA. On Jan. 1, 1990, he made the ultimate product endorsement by starting a business to market and support Demand Solutions in the Northeast U.S. In his sales, marketing, and support roles, Bill has worked with more than 400 companies across a diverse group of industries.  He writes and speaks frequently on forecasting and supply chain planning topics. Download and read Bill's "12 Supply Chain Forecasting Lessons" white paper today.

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