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Big Data at Work


by Clif Boutelle, SIOP Public Relations

Data Analytics’ Role in the Workplace is Topic of Newest Organizational Frontiers Book

“The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets—so-called big data—will become a key basis of competition in business.”

So write the editors of the latest volume in SIOP’s Organizational Frontiers Series, titled Big Data at Work: The Data Science Revolution and Organizational Psychology.

Scott Tonidandel of Davidson College and Eden King and Jose Cortina of George Mason University edited the book “to show how advances in data science have the ability to fundamentally influence and improve organizational science and practice.”

Big Data at Work is available for purchase in paperback or hardcover in the SIOP Store! (Remember, SIOP members receive a 20% discount!)

Although much has been written and discussed about big data, it is the editors’ contention that the voice of industrial and organizational psychologists has been markedly absent. They set out to show how I-O can impact and play a major role in the data revolution.

I-O psychologists are uniquely trained to help decipher and make sense of business-related data patterns through the lens of psychological science by leveraging their knowledge of people, work, and quantitative methods, the editors explain.

With that in mind, the editors have two goals for this book: (a) to review critical issues in collecting, analyzing, communicating, and theorizing about big data; and (b) to ignite rigorous scholarship on big data in organizations.

Organizational Frontier Series Editor Richard Klimoski said the big data topic was timely and will be of interest to both scientists and practitioners who are interested in the human condition in organizations. In addition, researchers and advanced undergraduate and graduate students in psychology, management, and statistics will find the book especially useful.

The editors have organized the book into two primary themes. The first focuses on the technical and methodological aspect of big data, including collecting, analyzing, warehousing, integrating, and visualizing. The second addresses topical content areas where big data might be well-positioned to contribute to paths of future inquiry, such as selection, teamwork, and diversity.

While the world of big data offers unprecedented opportunity, the editors caution there are practical and conceptual concerns. One, for example, is the sheer size of sample sizes can make customary reliance on statistical significance obsolete. Also, the volume and variety of big data make attempts to interpret trends over time incredibly complex. Traditional approaches to data interpretation are insufficient in describing big data; new interpretative lenses are essential, say the editors who, along with Alexis Fink of Intel, authored the opening chapter.

Regarding conceptual concerns, they point out that whereas data science has been around for a long time, big data science is quite new and will impact current theories. However, big data also can be leveraged to improve and enhance current theories.

There are also ethical issues regarding the use of personal information, privacy of individuals, informed consent, and analysis integrity. Although these need to be addressed, ultimately big data analytics must be held to the same standards of morality as traditional methods to be viable and supported in the long term, the authors say.

Tonidandal said the impetus for the book came from a session he and King attended on big data at the Houston SIOP conference in 2013, where they discovered they shared this common interest.

“That was when Eden, Jose, and I decided to start the book,” he said. “We worked that summer putting together a prospectus that was reviewed by the Frontier Series board and ultimately approved.”

They developed specific content areas in the two main themes (methods and content) and then set about to identify authors. In all, 24 authors and coauthors contributed to the volume.

“There was no one way we found contributors,” Tonidandel said. “Some were folks we knew doing work in the different areas. Some were recommended by the Frontiers series board and others were suggested from those we contacted about contributing. We were quite pleased with the caliber of contributors.”

Interested in Learning More About Big Data?

SIOP’s 12th Annual Leading Edge Consortium (LEC), “Talent Analytics: Data Science to Drive People Decisions and Business Impact,” will showcase the power and promise of combining organizational science with new and emerging methods in data collection, analysis, and display to deliver game-changing insight for organizations.

This event will take place October 21-22, 2016 at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta.