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Science is the difference between instinct and strategy

December 13, 2012
Daniel Tunkelang delivered the keynote address at a CIO Summit 2012. In his talk he argues for science as a strategy. He starts by mentioning that in many organizations, the decisions are all too often made by the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), and proceeds to offer three suggestions.
  1. Ask the right questions
    • In computing: garbage in garbage out. In Analitycs: we will not get the right answers if we don’t ask the right questions.
    • Example: LinkedIn switching from measuring accuracy of interviewer to optimizing tension between releasing weak candidates early and not missing the good ones.
    • Is asking the right questions an art or a science?
  2. Practice good data hygiene
    • Given enough data and computational resources, you can find anything.
    • Example: if a NFC team wins the Super Bowl, stock market goes up (with 80% accuracy).
    • Correlation is not causality.
    • Separate hypothesis generation from hypothesis testing.
  3. Don’t argue when you can experiment
    • Recent research indicates that reasoning may exist not for the purpose of finding the truth, but as a way of persuading people.
    • Example: Amazon offering product recommendations at checkout. Initially knocked down by instinct; later shown to be positive in experiments, and after implemented drives 5% of Amazon’s business for recommendations.
    • Why argue when you can test?

The video Science as a Strategy is available online and it is well worth watching.

Issues like the ones mentioned by Daniel are being discussed in the Data Analysis working group of the EU Project BIG. You should join the conversation!

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