Business Standard: Companies Need A Human Lens No Matter How Sophisticated Technology Becomes

By Ankita Rai, February 9, 2015

Regardless of how much data you collect, you still need to understand why customers are behaving the way they are, Christian Madsbjerg tells Ankita Rai

Predictive analytics solutions claim to help enterprises in building effective customer relationships. Do you think companies still require a human lens to solve business challenges?

Companies need a human lens no matter how sophisticated technology becomes in providing data about consumers. Regardless of how much data you collect, you still need to understand why customers are behaving the way they are, and what that means for your company. When your customer landscape is disrupted by, say, new technology or generational shifts, what changes is more than just what your customers are doing. There is a massive transformation in why they are doing it, and you need not just information about their behaviour but a new way of making sense of the underlying changes in people's lives. Big data can answer questions like, in what demographics certain sports are growing fast. It cannot answer a question such as "is yoga a sport?"

Executives often find themselves in a fog as the old models for how customers behave don't work. We need to ask fundamental questions: what do we do here? What business are we in? In such cases, you need derive meaningful patterns - you need a human perspective.

What are some of the mistakes companies make in understanding their target market?

Executives are not stupid. They are where they are because they have had success in the past. But this leads to a common error - orthodoxies about what works have built up during periods of success and remain the lens you use when looking at consumer behaviour even when this behaviour changes fundamentally. It is very hard to uncover your own orthodoxies and it is often these that get in the way of understanding customers.

Another reason why companies miss out is because they assume that people are the same if they look the same on paper. However, concepts and products can't just be copied and implemented.

Also, often people are not aware of what is most important to them and if they did they couldn't express it. This makes surveys great for knowing what people think they do, but dangerously inaccurate as to why.

This interview, along with an excerpt from The Moment of Clarity, originally appeared on


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