The Atlantic has published a useful short article describing what data mining is. "Everything You Wanted to Know About Data Mining but Were Afraid to Ask". Worth a read and forwarding to anyone in the general management community who needs to know this stuff.
If you are looking for some deeper background on data mining then there is a link within the article to a paper by Usama Fayyad, Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro and Padhraic Smyth. This is a more meaty introduction to the topic but the authors illustrate the concepts with a particulalry clear (and practical) example. Published in 1996, a lot, and I mean a lot has happened in the intervening years. But when you rightly worry about the current hype around Big Data, this article reminds you that under the hyperbole the business drivers underpinning mining are decades old. Dealing with data is still one of the major challenges of business. Get used to it.
ps. If you clicked on a link within The Atlantic article and got Sesame Street, this is the wrong link. Although maybe this is a more effective way of communicating to your boss after all ... ?