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Trump Win Shows Limits Of Big Data, Power Of Emotional Intelligence


The big buzzword in business these days is Big Data, which is going to change everything, of course.

I’m not here to say it won’t. Eventually. But American voters just tossed an ice cold bucket of reality on those who argue that Big Data is here and now, and ready to run everything.

Hillary Clinton, with her sophisticated, very expensive data analytics machine, won the popular vote by the slimmest of margins on Election Day. But Donald Trump, with his reality-TV-tested, carnival-barker sense of what people wanted to hear, was able to find a path through America’s Rust Belt to a stunning electoral college victory.

He did it by tapping into emotion, not by mapping data points.

While polling data correctly predicted the popular-vote win for Clinton, it failed to make the more nuanced call that anger among working class white voters ran deep, and would drive them to the polls in larger numbers than the luke-warm Clinton supporters in the Democratic base.

 It wasn’t just the Clinton polling and analytics team that was shocked as the returns came in. News organizations and Republican party leaders all looked at the same data, and came to the same conclusion. They thought Clinton would win. And when Election Day dawned, most put her chances at roughly 80 percent.

Many pollsters are whining that they got the big picture right. What they got wrong was the much-harder-to-measure sense of how likely people were to vote. They knew that Clinton, like Trump, was disliked by many voters. What they failed to predict was that Clinton’s “negatives” would weaken turnout among people who had voted for Barrack Obama – votes she needed and didn’t get, especially in key states.

It’s telling that many election post mortems are suggesting that Bill Clinton – another master of the art of understanding and responding to voter emotions – was pleading with campaign staff to pay more attention to white working class voters. He likely knew that Clinton couldn’t win that group, but correctly reasoned that chipping away enough votes might have tipped the balance in states like Michigan,  Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which Trump narrowly won.

Trump is no luddite. He understands the power of the social media echo chamber, maximizing the strength of his 14.2 million Twitter followers to spread his unfiltered message. His opponents, meanwhile, angrily denounced him in post after post, most of which were read almost exclusively by like-minded opponents.

Better analysis of the real data is out there. The bottom line is this. Digitally collected data, analyzed with powerful software algorithms, is an emerging tool that will reshape many businesses. But there will always be a place for the kind of emotional intelligence only humans possess.

This article was originally published on and can be viewed in full here