Newsletter – April, 2015

On My Mind
The Big Data phenomenon is resulting in some interesting lessons for organizations. My research-based definition of Big Data is the following: “Big Data represents a situation involving a large amount of data consisting of multiple data types sometimes arriving real-time from multiple sources requiring exploratory data analysis and integrative analytical methods for problem-solving and problem-discovering.” Many lessons are becoming clear, but I’ll mention two at this time. First, simply having strong analytical capabilities might not lead to a distinct competitive advantage for some organizations. For example, Major League Baseball (MLB) is one of the most mature industries in terms of analytical capabilities. Most—if not all—MLB teams now employee analytics professionals. Second, information technology-heavy business models must be supported by effective security and risk management systems. News reports of cyber attacks, hacking, and data breaches are becoming commonplace. Target Corporation is still dealing with the aftermath effects of the wide-scale data breach that occurred in 2013. Time will bring new lessons as the Big Data phenomenon evolves—we do live in exciting times.

Interesting Stories
I am a loyal customer of—considered to be one of the Big Data global best practice organizations. The algorithm used by to predict products I might like is not perfect and sometimes produces puzzling results. This is a message I recently received: “Dr. Charles Liedtke, has new recommendations for you based on items you purchased or told us you own.” Here is what was mentioned: “Gilbert & Sullivan: Broadway Theatre Archive, The Pirates of Penzance DVD.” I have no interest in this product and wonder how the algorithm could be so wrong. The moral of the story is that even world class Big Data preference learning algorithms are not perfect.

Company News
I have two public presentations in the near future. The first is April 14 on “Creating Successful Standards” at the Continuous Improvement Conference sponsored by the Printing Industries of America. The second is April 23 on “Zoom-Zoom! From Zero to BIG DATA in Seventy-Five Minutes” sponsored by Metropolitan State University. On another note, the public Continuous Improvement Green Belt course schedule and venue have been finalized. It is an eight-day course and will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, MN June 1-3, July 15-16, August 19-20, and September 30. Please send me an e-mail message at if you would like a brochure. The public Continuous Improvement Black Belt and Continuous Improvement Master Black Belt course schedules will be announced in May.

Intriguing Reads
I recently read the 2012 book by John MacCormick titled, “9 Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today’s Computers.” The author has succeeded in making some technically complex ideas easy to understand. I especially liked the chapters on Search Engine Indexing, PageRank, Pattern Recognition, and Databases. This is a great book to put on your reading list if you want to learn more about Big Data.