“Take a bike ride down the 27-kilometer Large Hadron Collider — thanks to a lucky Google Glass winner, whose ride-along video premiered Friday during TEDxCERN.
Andrew Vanden Heuvel always dreamed of being an astronaut; he ended up becoming a pioneering online physics teacher. So when he was selected to be one of the first to try out Google Glass, he knew exactly what he wanted to do: travel to Switzerland, go to CERN (aka the European Laboratory for Particle Physics), check out the Large Hadron Collider and beam the live footage back to a classroom.”
There seems to be two fundamental strategies to use the insight from “Big Data” and turn it into useful insight and business decisions – Customer Centricity and Innovation Networks, both of which I have written on before – and will do so in future.
One point I would like to stress here, though, is the definition of “Big Data” itself. There wasn’t one that I could find that proved completely satisfactory, as most address the technology aspects and challenges and ignore the organizational implications. So I offer this:
“Big Data” is
complex: comes from multiple sources – structured databases and unstructured social
analysable: it must be captured, processed, analysed & visualised
useful: insight must create decisive action
pervasive: it impacts everyone – changes everything in the organization’s processes
To look at this another way, I offered this summary.
Tiny Data + Unstructured Data = Big Data
Tiny Data means data from a single source in a structured format which, whilst it may in a huge quantity, is actually limited in its complexity. The CEO of Visa Europe, Peter Ayliffe, is the President of the CMI – and he agreed that even the databases held by Visa are, with this definition, “tiny”.
Unstructured Data means exactly that – no fixed database format or coherent structure. Think of messages sent on Twitter, images uploaded to the web, Facebook posts and likes, phone calls, customer service calls and so on.
“Big Data” combines the two. Only now are technologies becoming available to combine and make sense of these different sources – and most importantly turn the analytical results into useful insight and action plans.
I gave the example of looking at someone’s Facebook timeline, and noting that they tend to like wearing blue but never orange. If you are a clothing manufacturer, and knew that fact, wouldn’t that help you make more appropriate offers to that potential customer? And if you could match this insight against the customer’s purchase records over time, wouldn’t that give a richer insight into their behaviour?
Of course, it raises privacy issues. I will explore this and related ideas in future posts, and in particular the Leadership and Organizational Change implications of this “Big Data’ revolution.
“Tom has given more than 2,500 speeches in the last 30 years. He knows what it’s like to face a crowd, whether it be friendly or skeptical. As his own toughest critic, he’s never been completely satisfied with his performance.
While he has offered pointers here and there, he’s never written at length about speaking until now. We are fortunate that he has overcome whatever trepidation he may have had to tackle this topic.
You’ll find in the document below extensive advice and practical wisdom about speaking from a man who has spent most of his life on a stage, trying to share knowledge and spur action. Whether you give speeches for a living or on occasion, and even if you don’t but you want to understand what makes a great speaker, read this piece.
Then put it aside and read it a few months from now. It will change both how you speak as well as how you listen.
“The modern version of introspection is the sum total of all those highly individualized choices that we make about the material content of our lives.”
The art of the interview may be nearly obsolete, but a handful of its contemporary masters still hold its fort. One of them is Debbie Millman who, besides being an extraordinaryartist and modern-day philosopher, is also a maven of design and branding who has spent nearly a decade interviewing some of today’s most revered designers, writers, artists, anthropologists, and various other thought leaders on her Design Matters radio show, which earned the prestigious Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2011.
Cumulatively, the wide-ranging conversations — often optimistic, but never without necessary friction and the intelligent push-back that is the hallmark of a great interview — underline the little-appreciated yet invaluable fact that the best way to illuminate a discipline is by exploring its darkest nooks and furthest fringes, those myriad cross-disciplinary touchpoints where it connects to the intricate web of interdependencies that is life.
And in a culture where we continually make sense of life, ourselves, the world, and our place in it through the stuff we consume — be it the books we read or the brands we buy — these meditations on branding, design, and psychology reverberate through the deepest, and at times most uncomfortable, layers of our behavior, constructing a powerfully introspective framework for what it means to be human.
In the foreword, the inimitable Rob Walkerprovides his seemingly simple but enormously insightful definition of branding:
“My view is that branding is the process of attaching an idea to some object, or to a service or organization”.
“When did you last stop and really think about what you are doing, rather than being a slave to your QWERTY keyboard and seeking inbox nirvana”?
Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if organisations really began to think differently about the power of technological and social change to transform the way we do business.
That’s not a scare headline, it’s a fact of life. It’s not the finding of some new study either. It’s been true as long as there have been managers.
Managers fail because they’re people and people fail. No exceptions. Here’s what you can do to live with that fact. Work to minimize the frequency of your failures. Develop habits, processes, checklists, and systems that will help you get things right more often. Work to minimize the impact of your failures. Plan well. Try things out. Early, inexpensive failures can often save you from more expensive failures later. When you fail, fix things quickly. The situation can go from bad to worse, unless you step in to stop it. Learn from your failures. There are lessons lurking in every failure. Learn them and apply them as needed.
Boss’s Bottom Line
You and your team members will fail. Prevent as many as you can and minimize the impact of the rest. Learn from every failure.”
I always try to read Seth’s blog. The latestwas, as always, remarkably simple but full of meaning.
“Why prefer Coke over Pepsi or GE over Samsung or Ford over Chevy?
In markets that aren’t natural monopolies or where there are clear, agreed-upon metrics, how do we decide?
Yes, every brand has a story—that’s how it goes from being a logo and a name to a brand. The story includes expectations and history and promises and social cues and emotions. The story makes us say we “love Google” or “love Harley”… but what do we really love?
We love ourselves.
We love the memory we have of how that brand made us feel once. We love that it reminds us of our mom, or growing up, or our first kiss. We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.
We can’t easily explain this, even to ourselves. We can’t easily acknowledge the narcissism and the nostalgia that drives so many of the apparently rational decisions we make every day. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not at work.
More than ever, we express ourselves with what we buy and how we use what we buy. Extensions of our personality, totems of our selves, reminders of who we are or would like to be.
Great marketers don’t make stuff. They make meaning.”
Given my long-standing interest in all things “networked”, this latest article in the Fellow’s Magazine from Don Tapscott was very thought provoking.
Don argues that that non-directed networks, global in scope, are creating new ways to manage the world’s problems (and opportunities). He calls them Global Solution Networks and he identifies nine different types.
Here are the introductory paragraphs:
“Thanks to the internet revolution and the digital space’s communication tools, alternatives to nation-state-based institutions have evolved in the quest for a better world writes Don Tapscott
In December 2012, we saw two contrasting models of how we can solve global problems. On one side were representatives of more than 190 governments in a closed-door meeting in Dubai, hammering out how the internet should be run and who should pay for its operation. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a low-profile United Nations agency that sponsored the meeting, is in charge of setting out technical standards for the world’s communication technologies. In 1988, the last time the group met, the information superhighway was geek talk and the world wide web didn’t exist. The internet’s explosive growth occurred not because of the ITU, but despite it.
On the other hand was the self-organising ecosystem that runs the internet today. It is not controlled by states, but was fortunate to have the support of many western democracies. They were concerned about a dark agenda in Dubai. “Many states and corporations would like to get a stranglehold on the internet,” said Tim Berners-Lee, the web’s inventor. “The multi-stakeholder system that governs the internet works well and we need to preserve its openness.”
Letting an obscure ‘one vote per country’ UN technical agency decide who does what in the next stage of the internet’s development seemed to many to be the antithesis of what the internet represented. The blogosphere buzzed about proposals by repressive governments and money-grabbing telecommunications companies. One paper by the Russian government would have seen the ITU take over the internet. Another by European telecommunications companies would let operators charge high-bandwidth content providers
such as YouTube.
Berners-Lee’s fears were justified. The final treaty developed by the ITU was so potentially harmful that 55 countries refused to sign. They wanted to continue instead with the multi-stakeholder model of oversight that had fuelled the internet’s spectacular growth.
The successful governance of the internet to date suggests a completely different form of global cooperation to supplement or even succeed those based on the nation state, just as the nation state itself was built on the foundations of earlier forms of government. Due to a number of factors, global governance can now be co-owned by a variety of stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations, trans-national corporations, emerging countries and various traditional government entities. Even individual citizens have an unprecedented ability to participate and engage in global activities. As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once put it, “We [now] live in a world where human problems do not come permanently attached to national passports”.
We are clearly in the early days of an explosion of new, networked models to solve global problems; call them Global Solution Networks. But these new networks raise myriad questions and challenges. They seem to hold great promise, but how do we ensure their legitimacy, accountability and efficacy as vehicles for social justice and global cooperation?
Leadership of a different kind - musician arguing for a radical change in business model of the music industry.
“Don’t make people pay for music“, says Amanda Palmer: “Let them“.
In a passionate talk that begins in her days as a street performer (drop a dollar in the hat for the Eight-Foot Bride!), she examines the new relationship between artist and fan. Alt-rock icon Amanda F****** Palmer believes we shouldn’t fight the fact that digital content is freely shareable – and suggests that artists can and should be directly supported by fans.
“Amanda Palmer commands attention. The singer-songwriter-blogger-provocateur, known for pushing boundaries in both her art and her lifestyle, made international headlines this year when she raised nearly $1.2 million via Kickstarter (she’d asked for $100k) from nearly 25,000 fans who pre-ordered her new album, Theatre Is Evil.
But the former street performer, then Dresden Dolls frontwoman, now solo artist hit a bump the week her world tour kicked off. She revealed plans to crowdsource additional local backup musicians in each tour stop, offering to pay them in hugs, merchandise and beer per her custom. Bitter and angry criticism ensued (she eventually promised to pay her local collaborators in cash). And it’s interesting to consider why. As Laurie Coots suggests: “The idea was heckled because we didn’t understand the value exchange — the whole idea of asking the crowd for what you need when you need it and not asking for more or less.”
Summing up her business model, in which she views her recorded music as the digital equivalent of street performing, she says: “I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.”
“Palmer is set to join Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails as the artists people mention when they talk about the new music business.” Billboard
For years Tycho Brahe studied the heavens taking hundreds of pages of precise observations. When he died in 1601,Johannes Kepler, who was working for Brahe at the time, took those observations into his custody. Kepler wanted to use them to understand the movements of the planets.
It took him a few years to develop his first two laws of planetary motion. But the third turned out to be much tougher. With the first two, Kepler could reason his way to conclusions and then test them against the data. Developing the third law proved to be a very different proposition.
No elegant reason cut to the answer. This would be a process of one trial after another until he hit pay dirt. Author Edward Dolnick phrased it this way.
“Like a safecracker armed with nothing but patience, he tried every combination he could think of.”
It took more than a dozen years before he discovered the complicated computation at the heart of the third of his Laws of Planetary Motion. Imagine him trying one computation after another, hour after hour and day after day for more than a decade. Big data tools could have done it faster.
Most Big Data operations are the same kind of brute force computation that Kepler did, only much faster. Big Data is the new panacea. It will do just about everything, we’re told. But before we start planning for the era of universal peace and an end to disease and hunger which will surely come, it’s worth pondering that the computation is only the middle part of the process.
Kepler was using the Big Data of his day, but he had to know what he was looking for. He had to use good, accurate data. And he had to have some idea of how he could use it when he found it. That hasn’t changed simply because we can calculate faster.
Here are some articles to read when the Big Data Hype threatens wash over you.
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