Hemorrhoids and Big Data

Word Cloud "Big Data"

“Why are there so many hemorrhoid claims in this region?”

Several years ago, the vice president of a mid-sized insurance company was telling me the story of a struggling data warehouse implementation. His technology team spent months building a system to aggregate all their claims information across multiple geographies. While reviewing the initial reports, he quickly noticed that a particular region generated an excessive number of cases related to hemorrhoids. “This is all wrong; don’t bring me anything to review until this has been thoroughly tested,” he barked.

A week later, the program manager walked back into his office and sheepishly announced, “The reports were correct.” What? “We spoke to the manager of the regional office.” And? “We asked him about the excessive number of incidents in his agency.” Why? “After some discussion, he eventually admitted that every time they thought a claimant acted like a pain in the ass, it was coded as a hemorrhoid claim.”

Although comical, the story illustrates the importance of understanding your information sources. Increasingly, senior executives receive “fact-based data” that influences their decision-making. In this age of Big Data, individuals are armed with a never-ending supply of “facts” to bolster their position.

The danger lies in what psychologists call the “Confirmation Bias.” When someone discovers a piece of data that supports their position they use it, yet when they find data that negates their story, they ignore it.

I love TED Talks. One of my recent favorites is JP Rangaswamy’s “Information as Food” discussion. His basic question is “What would happen different in your life if you saw information as you saw food?” The dangers of misusing information are increasing. Unfortunately, the data presented to us contains no nutritional labels, no clues about fat percentage, protein and carbohydrate values. When concluding, Rangaswamy references the quote “There is no such animal as information overload, there is only filter failure.”

Pace yourself. Consume responsibly.

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Categories: analytics, big data, Business, CIO, technology, Uncategorized

About the Author,

Steve Harvey is the Worldwide Leader for Technology and Analytics across IBM's Business Process Outsourcing unit.

 

3 Responses to Hemorrhoids and Big Data

  1. Jennifer Thompson September 18, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I like these hemorrhoid guys’ sense of humor, and it makes for a good example of why a sanity check of your data is so important.

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