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“Data is the New Oil” is the New, “Henry Ford and Faster Horses”

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“Data is the New Oil” is the New, “Faster Horses”

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford

No he didn’t. (This is a great article in Harvard Business Review that both dispels the myth whilst pointing out that Henry Ford did indeed ignore his customers to the significant long term detriment of the business). I hate it when this quote is run out by ‘Thought Leaders‘ and ‘International Keynote Speakers‘ (according to their LinkedIn profiles anyway) at conferences as proof that to be innovative you have to be bold or whatever. I have banned speakers from using it at our events.

The new meaningless phrase that is tweeted, quoted and bandied about with absurd regularity is:

“Data is the New Oil”

What Scott Berkun said:

I’m not picking on Qi Lu, who knows whether he shared the entirety of the phrase or attributed it to its originator, Clive Humby in 2006. It is extraordinary that so many of these sorts of short, pithy phrases are bandied about, tweeted, written up and when they turn up at a sales conference a decade later, people still haven’t heard them.

“Data is the new oil. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analyzed for it to have value.” Clive Humby

All makes sense but let’s move on.

Confusing Google with ‘Content Marketing’

To be fair to Qi Lu, if he had Googled it, typing, ‘Data is the new oil…’ auto-suggests ‘Data is the new oil Clive Humbly’ so he would have probably being quoting Clive Humbly (11,800 results in Google), not Clive Humby (1,610 results in Google), but still. So many people have written and tweeted about the phrase and misattributed the quote, that the guy’s surname has changed under the sheer weight of ‘content marketing’ around the phrase.

Maybe Bing does a better job?

I went to Bing, there was a dancing puffin on the home page and Saturday Night Fever started blasting out from my speakers. WTF?! This is the reason I have not visited Bing for over 3 years. I will not visit it again for a similar amount of time. Shame, its auto-suggest was “data is the new oil origin” and the first result went to the original source.

I’m going to put it on our list of proscribed phrases for speakers at our events.

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