Companies know they need to tap into structured and unstructured data sources, and expert after expert champions the notion of Big Data analytics as significantly impacting line-of-business decisions and ultimately ROI. There’s a new trend emerging, however, stemming from unexpected information sources, and which provides actionable insight outside the box of traditional analytics thinking. There’s just one catch: how do you find the unexpected?

The Gender Gap

According to a recent Fortune article, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced another round of partnership commitments for Data2X, an initiative she developed in 2012 to power a “gender data revolution.” Interested in locking down specific metrics rather than nebulous generalizations, the project has already uncovered some interesting data; for example the fact that only a few years ago just six percent of women in India were officially listed as “employed” and yet most did an average of six hours of unpaid work per day. If the country brought these women into the workforce, it could raise the GDP by $1.7 trillion.

Drugs, Inc.

The war on drugs is another example of going beyond traditional metrics. Typically, governments have looked for ways to limit and measure the supply of illegal drugs both home and abroad, but these efforts were met with limited success. A research paper from the Instituto Igarapé, however, suggests that there are better metrics which could be used to limit the production and distribution of these drugs, such as promoting higher-value crop substitution or strengthening the market for alternative goods. With proper measurement and analysis, it’s believed that these methods could offer a long-term solution to the problem of illicit drug sales.

Close to Home

So how do companies tap into this trend toward unexpected information sources? First is finding analytics solutions able to tap all corporate data rather than a narrow spectrum of “acceptable” sources. More importantly, however, is that businesses cannot be afraid of unanticipated results. Clinton is looking to shed light on an international crisis, but still has trouble bending the ear of world leaders; the war on drugs needs a new battlefield, but many governments are stuck on traditional methods, convinced that what didn’t work before will suddenly show promise.

Data is unbiased without human interpretation, and insight can be found in the most unusual places. Embrace what isn’t seen; find value through the unexpected.

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