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Data & The Super Bowl

Data said the New England Patriots were the underdog in the 2019 super bowl, but if you were to enter any bar across the country, they would tell you the Rams were the clear underdog. Vegas heavily supported this belief as well. So, football fans and gamblers around the world are putting money on the team with the worse record, why? Because they trusted that the cool heads and experienced leadership of the Patriots would allow them to outperform their less experienced competitor…and they were right. The “worse” team was the better team, and everyone knew it. This tells us that data can’t accurately account for some “human factors”, in this case – leadership, demeanor and experience.

There is an increasing tendency to expect data analytics to lead to the best answer; but, despite the branding, these tools are incomplete. This principle applies directly to my work, executive search and recruiting, where search firms and talent acquisition professionals are demanding more algorithms and analytical tools to help select ideal candidates. My background is in finance and data analysis, and I truly believe in the power of data to reveal things unseen and/or support decisions, but there is a fine line when you use data in recruiting and decisions about people. Data doesn’t tell the full story about a person’s character, leadership style, and potential and should be used as a supporting tool in a search, But should not be the deciding factor.

In a world where corporations are collecting enormous amounts of data and private citizens are increasingly aware of their data privacy, we should all be thinking about what it really means for us as humans. Should data drive all our decisions? Does it? Or are most of our decisions like the Super Bowl, where the intangible factors will always drive us?


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