INTERVIEW: Stephen Few, on Big Data, Big Dupe

March 27, 2018 by Stacey Barr

This interview with visual analysis and dashboard expert, Stephen Few, is about his newly released book, “Big Data, Big Dupe: A little book about a big bunch of nonsense”. A very audacious title, with very controversial advice!

Stephen Few, visual analysis expert Big Data, Big Dupe: A little book about a big bunch of nonsense

Big Data is a big bandwagon.

And lots of technology providers, consultants and organisations are jumping onto it. But where are they headed? According to Stephen Few, nowhere worthwhile. And of particular – and alarming – concern to people like us, who believe in measuring what matters so we can achieve what matters, Big Data is making some very dangerous claims:

  • we can forget about causation, because correlation is all that matters
  • we can forget about the scientific method, because data can now speak for itself
  • we should measure everything, because we now have the data about everything

If you’re as alarmed as I am about this, you’ll be calmed by this sage – but controversial – advice from data sensemaking expert, best-selling author, and internationally renowned thought leader, Stephen Few. In the interview we discuss:

  • the problems with defining what Big Data really is, and really means
  • the myriad problems with the lack of validity of claims that Big Data makes
  • what it could mean for performance measurement and KPIs
  • how we ought to respond to it

Listen to the interview with Stephen Few, on Big Data, Big Dupe:



The transcript is available only to our PuMP Community members, exclusively for our PuMP Blueprint Workshop alumni, over at thepumpcommunity.com.

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  1. David Duncan says:

    Stacy and Stephen,

    Thank you for eloquently confirming exactly what I suspected (as Stephen also said) when I first heard the term ‘Big Data’. Smelled fishy from the beginning, but I’m surrounded by people who get swept up in the ‘text big thing’. Hard work and careful thinking, sadly, are not sexy. They were valued not so long ago. I wonder when it was that we become a ‘lottery-obessessed’ society…looking for that easy win and the solution to all our troubles. Anyone notice the odds of that happening? Hardly a way to run an enterprise. 😉

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Duncan, I often feel disillusioned like you suggest. When I started my career in measurement (employed in a corporation), my manager said I was going to have to make measurement ‘sexy’ to make it succeed. So hard! But like all things that mean something, the intrinsic reward in doing them well is worth more than their popularity. Don’t give up, Duncan.

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