Thursday, November 12, 2015

Big Data in Formula 1 Racing: Don't Overwhelm Humans

Fortune has a fascinating article about how Formula 1 teams are using the internet of things and data analytics to win auto races.   According to the article, 

"These machines, each valued at more than $9 million (a steering wheel alone is worth $77,000 or so) are more than just pricey contraptions capable of whizzing around the track at more than 200 miles per hour. They are also intelligent, thanks to the many dozens of sensors fastened to them. Each sensor communicates with the track, the crew in the pit, a broadcast crew on-site, and a second team of engineers back home in Europe."  

The team then uses predictive algorithms to help them understand how the car will perform under certain track conditions.  These data guide key decisions.  However, they are careful not to put too much on the driver's plate.  After all, he or she is concentrating on many factors while driving at a very high rate of speed.   The team doesn't want to overwhelm the "cognitive capacity" of the driver.  In other words, they have to boil all that data down to a few key items about which they want to make the driver aware.  

That description sounds quite similar to how a great football coach operates.  They conduct extensive analysis of the opponent, breaking down game film and evaluating data about the strengths and weaknesses of that team.  The coaches then build game plan.  However, they have to keep the ultimate plan simple enough so that players can make fast decisions on the field.  They want them to still act instinctively and not be overwhelmed by too much information.   Managers in all types of enterprises should take note.   We want data analysis to guide people's decisions, but we have to keep in mind the cognitive capacity of those individuals.  We have to be able to boil down all that data to a few key principles and recommendations that they can implement effectively and quickly.