Big data is such a hot topic. Everywhere I go people are talking, blogging, and tweeting about it.  Some add “smart data” or “data discovery” or words like “value”.  But, seriously, what does it really mean? I have heard the sports examples, the finding cures for cancer, and know the marketing buzzwords. Don’t get me wrong, I love the SAP Big Data Express Bus.  But how does “Big Data” translate into my everyday life and help me make a difference in the world?

Last week I attended a networking event on Women Harnessing the Power of Technology and Creativity. The featured speaker was Tiffany Shlain @tiffanyshlain, tiffanyshlain.com), filmmaker, writer, founder of The Webby Awards, and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. She is known to produce content that touches on complex subjects such as identity, technology, and science.  So what made me think about big data when I was listening to her?

During her talk, Tiffany touched on the profound affect her father, Dr. Leonard Shlain, had on her life. Dr. Shlain was a surgeon for 38 years but also a visionary thinker, educator, and best selling author. He had an incredible knowledge about the world with amazing insights on art, culture, literacy and the human brain. He had the ability to see differences in the world and challenge people’s perception of what they thought they already knew.

Although Dr. Shlain wrote four books during his life, Tiffany said he had another ten in him. This is what got me thinking about big data. Imagine the scientific breakthroughs or insights Dr. Shlain could have discovered if he had been able to analyze volumes (“big”) of data. Instead of researching for years to build his own data sets, he could have analyzed over a couple days to prove or disprove his thesis. Dr. Shlain could have written those additional ten books and blessed us all with more of his profound thinking.

This week was full of presentations and announcements focused around big data. I have listened to the presentations, read the blogs and followed the tweets, and I can’t help but recall Tiffany’s talk. What if her father Dr. Leonard Shlain was here today to use Big Data to analyze his insights and discoveries? It only takes one person with the knowledge and tools to bring change. If you have what it takes to make a positive change in the world using Big Data, check out SAP’s Big Data Geek Challenge.

How we manage and think about data is growing faster than bamboo. Unless we each connect its’ meaning to our own lives, how we might be able to benefit, the term big data will remain in the realm of marketing buzz. SAP is the market leader of in-memory technology. SAP’s vision is to help the world run better. To help customers and partners run like never before but also improve the lives of people everywhere. You only need to follow the conversation about SAP and Big Data to re-imagine what is possible.  If any company can encourage more profound thinking in the world, it is SAP!

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