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TED Talk Tuesday: What to Do With Big Data
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TED Talk Tuesday: What to Do With Big Data

Jeff Miller
Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

MAY 06, 2021

Last month, we announced a partnership with TED to bring curated TED Talks to Cornerstone Learning. Needless to say, we're ecstatic about the opportunity and believe they will serve as a powerful addition to learning programs around the world. For a peek into the potential of TED Talks for your L&D program, we're debuting monthly "TED Talk Tuesdays," where we'll share a cant-miss talk and its takeaways for HR teams.

First up: Susan Etlinger, a data analyst with Altimeter Group, on why using big data responsibly requires critical thinking skills. It's prudent advice for HR leaders currently using or interested in launching an analytics program. Watch the video below, and keep reading for three key lessons from her talk:

"We are not passive consumers of data and technology."

Etlinger emphasizes that we shape the role data plays in our lives, including the meaning we take from it. In order to get the most of big data, she says, we have to pay as much attention to how we think as to how we code.

"Facts are stubborn things, but sometimes they're stupid, too."

Etlinger shares a story about her son, who was diagnosed with Autism at age two. While the facts labeled him at the developmental level of a nine-month-old baby, she reveals why those facts alone didn't tell the whole story—he could communicate in ways that existed outside of the typical "checkboxes." Facts are vulnerable to misuse, consciously or unconsciously, Etlinger says, which is why it's important for us to question our frames of reference.

"Show your math."

Last but not least, Etlinger advocates for transparency with data. She encourages us to be clear about our hypotheses, our methodologies and our confidence in the results. Did the data really show us this, she asks, or does this result just make us feel more comfortable?

As data becomes increasingly influential in human resources, it's important to heed Etlinger's advice. We need to make sure we're asking the right questions, and looking for the true answer—not just the one we want to find.

Check back next month for a new TED Talk Tuesday post!

Photo: TED

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