Generals are, well, generalists, in a sense of the word. Able to zoom out in order to see the big picture, and able to zoom in to scrutinize excruciating details at will. In that context, Big Data doesn’t mean Big Picture. Put together properly, Big Data can provide Big Picture, or it can offer enough flexibility to show Big picture as seen under different light conditions, under UV light, Infrared and visible light. Seen under different conditions, Big Data may actually show us things that are pretty different from what we think Big Picture is.
At Waterloo, the French lost because Marshal Ney, that great tactical commander, did not have Big Picture and essentially caused the slaughter of the French cavalry, leaving Napoleon with only the Old Guard left as a viable reserve when Napoleon returned to the battlefield.
Use Big Data, by all means. Just be sure that all pertinent information is both carefully analyzed and synthesized, and make sure that the whole picture is seen under different kinds of light, so to speak. Be careful of dismissing parts of the picture that don’t make sense to you. Accept the data, analyze and synthesize it for understanding. That’s what you need to do as CEO. So does everyone else, but CEOs in particular.
If you’re one of the staff, make it your business to be in the know as well. Find out how the data as presented in adjacent Business Units or equivalent affects your Business Unit, and how your data affects others. It’s not just a best practice. It’s the only way to go.