Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

by Julio M. Ottino is Dean of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University

Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected and is changing at an exponential rate. Information is more abundant than ever, and it is rapidly becoming a commodity. This combination of speed, information, and interconnectedness creates a new imperative: we must be prepared to deal with an unprecedented amount of complexity and rapid change.

As a Dean at Northwestern University, I interact daily with the business leaders who are seeking to make sense of data complexity. They are faced with the question of how to deal with the future, but predicting the future is nearly impossible when it has become so difficult to even understand the present.

At the very core, there are two ways of dealing with the challenge of reading the future: rationality and intuition. As Albert Einstein said “the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.”

The rational mind needs tools and crutches in order to understand and evaluate situations. In the past, summaries and reports made it possible to capture the essence of a problem. However, today’s problems can’t be easily analyzed with logic alone.

The intuitive mind is honed by years of problem solving. Present day problems, however, take us into an entirely different level of intricacy. Past experience is a poor guide to the present.

To gain insights and simplicity amid complexity we need new tools to bridge the rational and intuitive minds. Business analytics provides the toolset that leaders can use to combine rational analysis with an intuitive understanding of the challenges we face.  Developing analytics skills will increasingly be a critical competency for successful leaders.

To best prepare students to thrive in the future, Northwestern and IBM are collaborating on two new business and technology master’s degree programs in analytics. The Master of Science in Analytics, a full-time program in the McCormick School of Engineering, is focused on three key areas of analytics: prescriptive, predictive, and descriptive. The Master of Science in Predictive Analytics, a part-time, online program in the School of Continuing Studies, focuses on building a solid understanding of data mining concepts and applications.

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Graduates of these programs will enter the workforce with the expertise needed to capitalize on complexity and create value from the vast amount of data at our disposal. Change brings challenges, but challenges bring opportunity and ultimately helps to build a better world.

Read more: If You Build an Analytics-Savvy Workforce, the High-Value Jobs Will Come, by Steve Hamm

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