The world’s tech consciousness is at the crux of a hockey stick curve of innovation, growth and connectivity.  Two of the hottest tech trends of 2011, big data and the cloud, can take a lot of the credit for a cognitive shift that is already happening.  It’s the realization that these two concepts are intuitively inclined to bring together siloed departments to achieve new levels of social, customer, and organizational awareness.  This past year has been a wake up call to many organizations that a new kind of thinking is required for 2012, it’s time to take advantage of all this newly accessible data and transform it into knowledge.

While the idea of ‘big data’ is nothing new, the term is. It’s meaning has been defineddissectedmuddled, and debated all year. Yet it plays hand in hand with another deceptively vague buzzword, the ‘cloud’.  There is no denying that people will continue to pick apart the applications, standards, benchmarks, and problems with the two but I’d like to take this opportunity to point out the silver lining – IT and Business people are finally speaking the same language. While both maintain their own dialects and tools, they are now realizing the opportunity for productive collaboration, like marrying analytics technology with social data. Since about 2009, big data has largely been coming from social, mobile and non-traditional data sources. This is no coincidence.

How can we even talk about the big data circus without mentioning its most popular attraction, the social media sideshow?  Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. People (aka “consumers”) are fundamentally changing the way they perceive the world.  This perception is altered by social connections. These social connections are now ‘event-based’ transactions that are quantifiable.  This requires companies to think differently in order to understand and adapt to the rapid rate of the infinitely expanding digital universe (aka “the internet”) and the escalating expectations of its sentient, dynamic and unpredictable user base. Now that companies collect this information, they must require that thier IT, marketing, and business development teams make sense of it all.

Over the past 30 or so years, cognitive science proved time and time again that people are much more social that formerly believed.  With today’s advanced message boards and instant gratification, businesses are realizing that big data, cloud computing and social media are all just part of the same natural cycle in evolution.  The environment is changing, and companies have an unprecedented chance to help guide and educate people through a transition that can feel as abrupt as the shift from analog to digital. 

There’s no turning back now, but don’t worry - 2012 will not be the end of the world - it’s the beginning of a different kind of thinking.