TechKnowledge: A Conversation with Stephen Baker

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Stephen Baker, who recently wrote “The Numerati”, a book that takes a fascinating look at the growing importance of our personal data trails online either at work or in the blogosphere. 


At Dell, we are very aware of how often we interact with our customers.  In fact, we have about two billion customer interactions of some type each year.   But in a world where there are 1.5 billion people online and approximately 500,000 people going online each day for the first time in their lives, the amount of interactions and data generated in the future will be enormous. 

Stephen’s views are worthwhile for companies who want to better understand how to make the most of the data in a way that is a win/win for customers and the organization.  He cites Google as a great example of a Numerati-driven company.  He also references an internal process at IBM where workers are matched up with available work flow based on a Numerati-driven system. 

In particular, I was intrigued by several points he mentioned.

1) It’s not just a cool theory – Think of it this way…  Theories explain what people may do.  Surveys ask people to tell us what you expect  to do in the future.  The Numerati approach analyzes what you are actually doing via data.  It’s reality vs. theory.


2) Our desire for convenience and customization is a balance vs. privacy – Stephen has many examples of how we are making trade-offs to opt-in to a system to receive more convenience, knowing that we are giving up some level of privacy.  For example, an electronic toll card in your car shows exactly where you have driven, but most of us are ok with this, since we don’t have to stop and pay each time.  His view is that we are making these trade-offs constantly and that it is fine, as long as we always keep our eye on respecting one’s privacy.  That last point is key.  Respect for one’s privacy will always be important no matter how cool the analytics approach may be.


3) Customers and Companies are getting to know each other better than ever – the reality is we all want the right bargains, the right customized service and the only way to do this is to share more of what we want and tell a little bit more about who we are.  Progressive companies will learn how to meet the needs of their customers, rather than bombarding them with a wide range of information they don’t want.

4) If you are an analytics expert, expect a fun time in the years ahead.  Your time has come. 

Stephen has a lot of interesting views on The Numerati.  Hope you enjoy our interview. 

About the Author: Bob P