Information On Demand Day 2 Wrap: Notes from the keynote
Delaney Turner 270002T14M firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  ibmsoftware cognos10 baforum iodgc
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Attendees to today's opening session of Information On Demand and Business Analytics Forum saw a through line drawn by a succession of presenters, from battlefield surgeons back to the increasing – and increasingly unavoidable - issue of big data.
In an eloquent opening address that from the first unvarnished image held the audience in rapt attention, guest speaker Dr. Atul Gawande explored how data-driven insights have rewritten the rules of the battlefield surgeon and dramatically reduced casualties in the continuing military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But first, the data.
Big data is a big story
Turning big data into business outcomes
Improving business outcomes demands new skills
In the customer panel discussion that followed, representatives from Best Buy, Countrywide Insurance, Nestle and Gwinnett County Public Schools discussed the softer side of the equation by focusing on the new skills that successful organizations rely on, particularly the ability to connect and collaborate across organizational boundaries, and individual empowerment driven by pervasive insights. In addition, each stressed the importance of curiosity and patience in what is often a long journey
Putting it all together on the battlefield
His question was simple: How do you save people in war? Since the 1950s, Dr. Gawande explained, advances in military technology and battlefield surgery had reached a sort of stalemate – with casualty mortality rates staying stable at about 24 percent up until the Persian Gulf War. In the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, casualty rates have dropped to 10 percent, despite no substantial advances in surgical techniques.
Why the drop?
Surgeons, said Dr. Gawande, began paying attention to the data. They had discovered that mortality rates improved dramatically the closer they were to the hospital. But with modern soliders moving further into the field, the solution wasn't to transport them back to the hospital more quickly, but to transport the hospital with the soldiers. Now, rolling hospitals travel with battlefield units. Within three hours surgeons can create a fully functional hospital. Further, surgeons turned to performing only the most necessary parts of a procedure to enable the wounded solider to be transported to one of several hospitals farther away. This, said Dr. Gawande, ran counter to a surgeon's training. Yet in a hostile environment lacking xrays and other amenities it resulted in a dramatic reduction in fatalities.
People make only two kinds of mistakes, Dr. Gawande said. Mistakes of ignorance happen when people lack the information they need to make good decisions. Mistakes of ineptitude happen when people don't know how to use the information in the right way.
If data driven insights can result in such dramatic transformations as to save actual lives, imagine what they can do for your business. Our challenge, said Dr. Gawande, is to cope with complexity and execute properly on the knowledge that does exist. It's going to require new teams, new kinds of people and, in his words, “could not be more fascinating.”