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The importance of thinking small, aka: How much use is big data to small business?

Bigger is better, right?

The more data you have, the more robust the information.  The better the information, the more meaningful conclusions you are able to draw.  And we all understand now that we, whether we know it or like it, contribute to ‘big data’ gathering every day we’re online.  So if we’re contributing then it must be genuine, informative and useful.

But is it?

Can ‘big data’ be collected for particular commercial reasons and used accordingly?  Can it usefully tell us what we want to know?

Yes and no.  It can be amazing and deeply insightful.  Or it can be tainted, too abstract or not relevant to our real life business issues. 

So I’m making a case for small data, individual insights and the tiny changes that can accumulate to larger results.  I’m talking about the actions and changes that happen at a level below which we might not normally notice but, taken collectively, can be significant.

Let’s still have our moonshot goals – let’s launch our business rocket to the moon – but let’s understand the small changes we need to make.  Large goals by small steps.

Small data might be tiny, like this:

  • A customer making an ‘off the cuff’ comment, such as “I nearly didn’t register because you asked for my phone number”


  • Noticing that your gross margin has slipped by 1%


  • Overhearing a friend in the pub talking about his great new finance rate which has cut his interest costs

Small data is streaming in, live, every minute of every day and it becomes white noise to our busy days.  My challenge to you is to find ways to capture and distil this small data into:

  • Interesting but irrelevant – note and retain for the pub quiz
  • Interesting and valuable – note and document into your planning
  • Interesting and vital – note and act

When we’re busy, we can miss these nuggets of small data, unless we have a method to recognise, capture and use it.  So that’s what we’re working on now in Beany – helping our clients understand how their large goals can be advanced by not only their own small data insights, but also those from other businesses.

The translation of small data into actionable points which connect to your larger life and business goals – well, it sounds easy when you say it quickly like that!  If you want to talk more to someone about understanding and actioning small data, contact [email protected] to become a part of a wider trial into small data actions.

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