Your brain versus analytics


cyber_brain_1MBWhen I was discussing decision making and analytics with a colleague, he recommended I read the book Your Brain at Work by David Rock. I took his advice because I wanted to find out how the brain processes information and how it might relate to analytics.

Rock (you gotta love that name) explains the importance of the prefrontal cortex and how it sorts information during the decision making process. He says the prefrontal cortext is like a stage and there are a limited number of actors (information/thought processes) allowed on the stage at one time.

You can't discount the power of emotion in decision making, so I also read Dr. Travis Bradberry's Emotional Intelligence 2.0 which discusses emotional quotient (EQ) and the part it plays in our lives (for the short version, you can check out his LinkedIn posts).

So, how do these books relate to analytics? According to Rock, and several other researchers, the maximum number of ideas or thoughts that anyone's prefrontal cortex can efficiently focus on at any one time for decision making is (drum roll please): Four to eight. No matter how high your IQ or EQ is, the number is four to eight - and that's not a lot of data.

Does this really mean you can't have more actors on center stage at any given time? The answer is that you can have more, but this is the maximum number that any single person can efficiently focus on at one time.

If you have more than eight, you overwhelm the stage and either can't make a decision or will make the kind of mistakes we all make when we're unfocused, overwhelmed and scattered. Ever have one of those days? Just try walking into an unfamiliar building and attempt to find a bathroom while reading an important email, and you'll find out how few complex ideas, let alone simple ones, you can focus on at one time.

Focus is the key. Studies have shown time and again that people with average IQs, but high EQs, can and do outperform those with high IQs and average or low EQs when it comes to success in business and in life. Why? It seems that those with high EQ's are better at recognizing, limiting and prioritizing the number of thought processes they allow on their stage (or prefrontal cortex) at any one time - and as a result have trained themselves to be more efficient decision makers.

Analytics is similar in that it does the heavy lifting of processing, sorting and prioritizing vasts amounts of data to help businesses make good decisions faster. The better the analytics, the faster data can be processed, and the quicker we can make a decision that helps us succeed. 

I can't think of any better examples of quick analytics than these two new offerings: SAS® Factory Miner and SAS® Cybersecurity. The first industrializes data mining and machine learning and the second brings entirely new analytics processes to the modern dilemma of cybersecurity.

I think my brain hurts now (too many actors on this stage), and you'll need to read Your Brain at Work to find out why I'm glad I wrote this blog in the morning.

Watch this webinar for a machine learning overview.


About Author

David Pope

Technical Leader, Senior Manager US Energy

David leads the pre-sales technical team for SAS US Energy which solves business problems in the Oil & Gas and Utilities industries using advanced analytics. He is a lifetime learner who enjoys sharing information and helping others to grow their careers. He earned a BS in Industry Engineering and a Computer Programming Certificate from North Carolina State University. Furthermore, he has over 29 years of business experience working with SAS across R&D, IT, Sales and Marketing in the Americas and Europe. He is an expert in working with data and producing insights through the use of analytics. David has presented at SAS Global Forum, the 2012 SAS Government Leadership Summit, IBM’s Information on Demand(IOD), EMC World, CTO Summit Conferences, is the author of the book: "Big Data Analytics with SAS", and he currently holds 14 patents for SAS in several countries: US, CA, Norway, UK, China, Mexico, and Hong Kong.

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