I got an email this week from a smart and well-meaning entrepreneur. Despite the entrepreneur’s fine personal qualities, the email’s first paragraph had a total of 6 lines and in those 6 lines, it featured the word data 13 times. In other words, this email was beating the previously set world email record of using “data” 2x per line. More than 10% of the words in this one paragraph were “data.” Seriously, I can’t take it anymore.
Data. Data. Data. It’s starting to sound like that sound that Charlie Brown’s teachers make, which is, this: whamp whamp whaaaaamp….(you can listen to what this sounds like immediately below 🙂
Hey! All you people who love data so much, Hear This: data is only as good as what you do with it. Data for data’s sake is just….whamp whamp.
Look, I get it. Data is the new currency or, wait, maybe it’s the new gold? Or hold on, maybe data is the new oil? If it is, I hope it’s the good oil, like a fine Italian truffle oil. But what happens if it’s snake oil?
But just a second…maybe data is really exhaust? If it’s exhaust, is it the kind that creates energy or pollution? One thing I know for sure, data is becoming exhausting.
We now have companies whose whole business model is to create data, mine data, connect data, share data, trade data, buy data, sell data, and to turn data into wine…or at least that’s what I expect to see when I open my next LinkedIn message. That would actually be an excellent use of data except for the part about how I’m allergic to wine. When someone figures out how to turn data into bourbon, I will be the first one with my checkbook out.
And no, I am not naïve. I know there are companies that have made squillions of dollars in the data trade. It’s nice to have squillions of dollars. But at some point, someone has to actually make something or do something, not just traffic in the stuff in between. I worry that we in healthcare (and perhaps in some other industries) are forgetting that middle part – the part where we create value besides just data, the part where we create better services or new products that are greater than the sum of their data parts. “Data parts” sounds like something naughty, like some sort of blockchain porn. But I digress.
My daughter was looking over my shoulder when I read the data-infused email noted above and asked me, and I quote, “Do you ever wonder what these companies actually do?” and I shouted “YES! BECAUSE THEY OFTEN FORGET TO TELL ME – DATA!”
I hope this trend gets better, because it seems to be getting worse. As AI becomes ubiquitous (I think AI now stands for Ad Infinitum), the data business model seems to be front and center in everyone’s business plan – data is now believed to be the corest of core assets and the product or service that leads to the data a merely incidental inconvenience. Hint: data is often not worth as much as people think it is.
Of course, we should all be learning from the experiences we have and feeding the information learned back into the endless loop of improvement, but the whole world isn’t standing by waiting to pay for every single person’s data…unless they are Google. But they actually figured out a business model for it!
I keep expecting to open up executive summaries now and having them say, “Data. That is All.” Just having that phrase properly punctuated can get you a $100 million pre-money value and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go public via SPAC.
So entrepreneurs, this is my desperate plea. Data, yeah, yeah. I know you have sh#tloads of it. Now riddle me this, DataMan: So What? Who will use it to what end and what will they get out of it that makes it worth paying for, specifically? Please tell me because I need to know. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
And, by the way, this is my favorite data joke: There are two kinds of data scientists. 1.) Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.