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Big Data’s Infinite Loop

Who controls the past now controls the future
Who controls the present now controls the past
Who controls the past now controls the future
Who controls the present now?
            -- Testify, Rage Against the Machine

I always wanted to start a blog with a quote from Rage Against the Machine and a reference to George Orwell.  This week’s Successful Workplace blog from Theo Priestly talks about the infinite loop of customer expectations, using the movie Looper as inspiration. 

The premise of the blog is that Big Data leads to unparallelled insight and a current and future picture of what your customer base will likely react to. So businesses will be able to anticipate customer behavior surgically targeted to the individual. But customers will start to expect that you’ll anticipate what they want, and demand even more from you, and you'll get stuck in an infinite loop trying to eke more out of your predictive data engines to meet customer demand. It becomes an endless cat-and-mouse cycle.

And here’s where the argument breaks down for us. Aren’t companies in business to provide great customer experience? If you corner the market on great customer experience (ala Amazon.com) not only do you become the market leader, but consumers expect it not only from you, but from your competitors? Is this a cycle you want to break?

More optimistically, we would call this the efficient flywheel effect – a circuit that keeps oscillating without further stimulus. Streamlined, efficient – again, what’s not to like?

Businesses have the opportunity to understand customers at a depth that hearkens back to the past of neighborhood stores and bank branches. It's an opportunity to have a deep, relevant and constantly improving dialogue with your customers, and to do all this at an immense scale. One person’s cat-and-mouse is another’s flywheel.

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