3 Ways Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ Anticipated the Value of Real-Time Anomaly Detection
“Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.”
Having just passed the 10-year anniversary of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller “Outliers: The Story of Success“, we thought to mark the occasion by taking a look at outliers and how they relate to success in the business world.
Gladwell describes outliers as “those [people] who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.” At Anodot, we’ve also made it our mission to spot outliers, albeit of the data variety. How then might some of Gladwell’s insights apply to the field of anomaly detection?
Timing is Everything
Just as Gladwell talks about timing being a key to success (he illustrates the point by noting that the top IT entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley were born between 1953 and 1956), the same is true in the world of business and eCommerce. Companies must be able to jump at opportunities when they present themselves, but it could be a long wait unless they know what to look for.
A group of UK data scientists discovered there was a 45 percent increase in the number of data breaches caused by emails going to the wrong recipient and built a very successful product to address the problem. Their timing was perfect: the product launch preceded the introduction of new data protection regulations that, if breached, could result in a fine of up to €20 million. Product sales soared.
So how do businesses make sure they seize opportunities in a timely manner? Make sure data is being analyzed in real time.
In the case of Anodot, the platform first evaluates data to determine its normal operating range, monitors data flows and assigns a significance score – an assessment of the anomaly’s importance – to the deviations discovered, immediately prompting a human analyst to investigate further.
The 10,000-Hour Rule
Gladwell claims it takes 10,000 hours to truly master something; about the same time it would normally take to analyze the amount of data held by a mid-sized business, and far too long to be practical. To extend the sporting analogy used by Gladwell: If you’re using a manual process while your competitors are using a real-time detection system, you’re playing in a different league.
Contrast that with sophisticated machine algorithms that can sift through millions of metrics, processing different datasets simultaneously and providing different teams — BI, R&D and DevOps — with a single, unified system for both business and IT metrics. What would normally take teams days or hours can happen with AI in minutes.
King, the gaming giant behind “Candy Crush”, generates billions of daily events from its range of popular apps, but it was taking days, or longer, for traditional analytics tools to find and fix problems that were impacting revenue. Switching to Anodot reduced the detection time by a factor of 100.
The final lesson we found most valuable is that outliers, while given more opportunities, need to capitalize on them. The same applies in business: it’s the ability to find and act on opportunities that separates winners from everyone else.
The problem is that the needle is sitting in an increasingly larger haystack. Subtle anomalies can slip under the radar and easily go undetected.
Anomaly detection solutions are particularly suited to fast-moving, complex businesses with data that’s often gathered globally 24/7 — exactly the type where opportunities are difficult to spot.
Case in point: Ikea. The Swedish furniture giant stumbled upon a £1,600 designer bag that bore an uncanny resemblance to their 40p carrier. Responding with a quick tongue-in-cheek campaign generated more than 165 million impressions and $6M of earned media. Captify was launched to allow advertisers to use keyword searches to trigger display advertising — an opportunity that Google missed.
Anodot’s Autonomous Analytics platform is unique in that it also correlates those anomalies across all your metrics, helping you spot the patterns that facilitate insights and remediation. Anodot can be linked to most visualization applications, which is particularly important where there are many variables and where drilling into the detail is the only way of getting the full picture. Alerts are delivered directly via email, Slack or the app to make sure nothing is missed.
Digital advertiser Rubicon Project, estimates that it would take five man-years to develop the tools capable of Anodot’s insights.
According to Gladwell, “The biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work.” But it takes more than that — it takes the right tools to achieve success. Automated real-time anomaly detection can give your business the competitive edge it needs to thrive.
Contact us today to see how Anodot’s real-time analytics can help you improve customer satisfaction, boost profitability and grow your business.