Business intelligence(BI) has always been involved in the business of numbers - and that penchant for numbers, rather than stories, is hurting business' ability to react to market changes. We need to take a more expansive view of BI - aiming for what I'm calling "visceral business intelligence" - if we're to help the business identify problems and correct them.

Think about it. Other organizations that gather intelligence take a much more expansive view of the term. Military and spy organizations gather numbers, stories and rumors - and recognize each one's strength and weaknesses. Numbers are satisfying in their succinctness: casualties are down 12 percent, for example. Stories bring a narrative element to what's going on: casualties are down due to the element of surprise and better medical care at the battle front. Rumors - which can consist of either numbers or stories - suggest possible future changes, but it's not always easy to discriminate between fact and fiction.

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