Strong Signs in Weak Signals


The ceaseless flow of information and data running through most businesses now has made it easier to spot big trends, but also threatens to wash over smaller pieces of critical information. But increasingly, it is these small snippets of data that carry important insights – key pieces of information floating along in the fast-paced stream of social data.

McKinsey recently published an article on the value of these weak signals, and several principles on how to harness their power and insight. Many of these are fairly simple: getting senior executives familiar with social networks, developing a distributed network of people with their social ears to the digital street, watching for how customers interact with products and services in unanticipated ways.

What’s clear in a world increasingly driven by big data is how to develop the antennas that can sense when something minor is important. One of the best examples of the strength of weak signals highlighted by McKinsey was Nordstrom’s early interest and leverage of the data from Pinterest. And earlier this year, Pinterest released an API specifically for business insights. Quality still has its place, even in a data world dominated by quantity.