Organizations are beginning to access the power of business intelligence, especially in the areas of marketing, sales and logistics. As more and more data is collected, shared and used to target the individual, a divide is forming between the generation that wants to use big data and the generation that actually has the power to make it happen.
While retirement is approaching for Baby Boomers, they are still earning, on average, higher salaries than Millennials. Baby Boomers are also more likely to hold management positions within their companies, which is partially due to the fact that they’ve been in the professional world for a greater amount of time.
Meanwhile, Millennials are taking their first steps into the workforce, and statistically speaking, they’re more likely to have student loans and a permanent spot on their parents’ fold-out couch.
Stephen J. Dubner, journalist for The New York Times and co-author of “Freakonomics,” believes that big data is the way of the future, but he’s worried that society might not be ready for it yet.
“Even if you could tell me,” says Dubner, “the most foolproof strategic way to reach a decision…or the best set of numbers to embrace, there might be a lot of good reasons why you won’t be successful.”
His thought process is largely based on the idea that people, especially Baby Boomers, are more likely to hold onto previous biases or experiences than follow statistically-proven truths.
“(Baby Boomers) have set beliefs and ways of approaching problems and decisions,” says Dubner. “For years, ‘data’ was talked about, and maybe embraced at some places, but ‘gut’ could almost always beat it out.”
Millennials, on the other hand, have been living hand-in-hand with big data and data visualization. According to “Strategic Data-Based Wisdom in the Big Data Era,” by John Girard, Deanna Klein and Kristi Berg, Millennials are “willing to compromise the privacy and security of their personal information for the ability to network with peers, acquire data at a moment’s notice, and market products and/or themselves.”
Not only do they have a tolerance for business intelligence, they want to use it in their business models. Therefore the importance and use of data visualization techniques, like dashboards, will likely increase as Millennials grow as a proportion in the workplace. It’s a safe bet considering how prevalent and accessible large sets of data will become in an increasingly digital world.
Boomers can learn from the Millennials who want to make decisions based on the data and expect the data to be instantly available. Millennials can also learn from the Boomers whose experience helps decipher what the data is really saying. The two generations can truly benefit from each other and use visual tools and dashboards that make the data understandable and help provide a foundation that will bridge the great divide.