2017 Clearworks Student Innovator Guest Blogger: Sneha Venkatraman from UNC Chapel Hill

If there were one topic I wish was more commonly taught in universities, that would be consumer insights. There’s a lot of buzz around the importance of CX, but delivering on that promise is a different story. And what better way to do this than starting with the voice of the customer?

Through TMRE, I had the opportunity to understand how market researchers are leveraging technology and developing new methods that shake up how we perceive the world. Here are two of the most important things I learned:

  1. Emotions and data are no longer opposing forces.

The traditional perception has been that emotions are subjective and therefore not easy to measure, but that isn’t the case anymore. Isobar’s Mindsight technology uses algorithms to uncover latent motivations driving specific human behaviors. To my surprise, a five-minute quiz on an iPad in which I selected pictures I liked was enough to translate my responses into metrics and insights about my emotional drivers. This intersection between data science and emotion science is evidence that both left- and right-brained thinking will continue to be valued. As Malcom Gladwell explained, people will act the way you predict until they don’t. Because algorithms can’t predict deviations, there will always be a need for empathy and human connection.

  1. Interrogating data uncovers underlying truths about society.

The US News college ranking algorithm asks presidents of schools to rank other schools based on quality and weights these perceptions at 22.5%. There is absolutely no correlation between the quality of the school and the rankings, but this is a system that our society has bought into. By refusing to interrogate this algorithm, we perpetuate a culture in which we value arbitrary reputation over objective merit. And that’s a scary thought. This is why it’s important to seek a range of interpretations of data. There’s never only one correct way of thinking.


Thank you to TMRE and Clearworks for the wonderful experience! 



Sneha Venkatraman is 2017 Clearworks Student Innovator. She is a Senior at UNC Chapel Hill studying Business Administration with Anthropology and Math Decision Sciences as minors.  She received a full scholarship to attend TMRE. Click here to learn more this year’s students.


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