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You may remember the scene in the picture from 2011. IBM developed a super computer named Watson who appeared on the game show Jeopardy. He was in a match against two returning Jeopardy champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson was uploaded with the entire contents of Wikipedia, dictionaries, encylopedias and other data stored on a 4 terrabyte hard drive. During the game when the host, Alex Trebek, provided the clue, Watson parsed this massive amount of data to come up with the correct answer. All of this takes place in a matter of seconds. So, how did Watson the computer do against the two returning champions? He smoked them. Why? Because he was making his decisions based on a data set, not a feeling set.
I believe that we can learn something from Watson's decision making process. Remember, Watson is a computer and does not have the "gut" feelings that we humans do. In my world of being a used car dealer I have to make decisions each and every day on what types of vehicles to purchase for my store. I am a vAuto dealer and use their Provision tool to help me source my inventory. With all of the data that Provision feeds me, I sometimes let my "old car guy" thinking get in the way of trusting the data. Sometimes when shopping for inventory I see a vehicle where my old car thinking disagrees with the data that the tool provides. For instance it may be a high market days supply vehicle with limited sales history in my market area. The data tells me not to buy that car. My old car guy thinking then shifts into high gear and says " I know they are telling me this is not a good car for my store, but if I can buy it cheap enough I can get it sold".
Watson would not have made that decion. Whenever I have an aged unit in stock, I check the merchandsing, pictures, descriptions, and price to figure out why it has not sold. In most cases I find that these units have 25+ fabulous pictures, have descriptions that Ernest Hemingway would be proud to have written, and seem to be priced right. The reason they are not sold is they are units I never would have purchased in the first place if I trusted the data more than my gut. They are high market days supply vehicles that were not a good fit for my store. My "old car guy" thinking thought that I could outsmart the computer. That will never happen.
I think that we can all learn something from Watson's success. We are in the age of big data in our industry and we have some very powerful technologies available to help us do our jobs more efficiently. I used the example of an inventory tool but the same can be said about the massive amount of data that is in our CRM's, and DMS. Are there reports that we could be paying closer attention to that could help find more deals? More service customers that have defected to the independants? You get the idea. If we are truly in the age of big data and how we use it can determine our success, then lets be more like Watson. And less like the old car guy. We have to learn to trust the data. I sure did.