Big Data and the Three Little W’s

Big data—extremely large sets of structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data—are all the rage right now. If only organizations could better manage the volume and velocity of big data and turn it into insights, the thinking goes, they could be more innovative, better serve their customers, and gain a competitive advantage in the market. But how?

Peter Mulford has the answer (actually, three of them): who, what, and why.


“People leading innovation efforts should create a mindset in which their teams start by identifying the customer problem they are trying to solve,” he writes in the May-June issue of Information Outlook. “The three W’s framework is a simple tool to apply to this end . . . By relentlessly asking and exploring these three questions, the team will dramatically improve the odds of success by ensuring it is working on a problem the customer actually cares about.”

By asking who, what, and why questions, Mulford says, librarians can discern the “why beneath the why” that underlie the data in question. They can then convert the data into insights that are essential to providing decision-ready information that can lead to innovations.

“A key problem with data is that it often fails to reveal the deeper ‘why’ required for great innovation,” he writes. “. . . The three W’s are an approach to framing the problem and finding the solution.”

To learn more about turning data into insights that inform decisions and innovations, read the article.

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