While consumers may think of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare as places to post musings and interact with friends, companies like Wal-Mart and Samuel Adams are turning them into extensions of market research departments. And companies are just beginning to figure out how to use the enormous amount of information available. Not everyone is a believer in data alone. “Data can’t tell you where the world is headed,” said Lara Lee, chief innovation and operating officer at the design consultancy Continuum, which helped design the Swiffer and the One Laptop per Child project.
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