Chapter 2Four Problems with Data Today:Breadlines, Obscurity, Fragmentation, and Brawls

Data Breadlines for the Data-Poor

Charles Louis Fleischmann, a Czech educated in Budapest, Vienna, and Prague, emigrated to the United States in 1865 with his brother Max. Upon arriving in Ohio, they were both immediately disappointed by the quality of local bread. Enterprising men, the Fleischmann brothers partnered with a local financier named James Gaff to found the Fleischmann Yeast Company in 1868. They spent the next two years producing and patenting a compressed yeast cake that transformed baking in America.

In addition to their ubiquitous yeast, the Fleischmanns were also famous for their generosity. In the 1880s, the Vienna Model Bakery of New York started a tradition. Each night, they doled out all the unsold bread to the poor, creating the first breadline. Eventually, the line grew to 500 people long.1 Five decades later, long breadlines became a vivid artifact of the Great Depression, when thousands of men, unable to provide for themselves or their families, lined up to receive bread.

When I think about the behavior of many business people today, I imagine a breadline. These employees are the data-poor, waiting around at the end of the day on the data breadline. The overtaxed data analyst team prioritizes work for the company executives, and everyone else must be served later. An employee might have a hundred different questions about his job. How satisfied are my customers? ...

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