Tag Archives: Data work

How to Leverage Data and Statistics (Part 2)

How do you as a Business or Non-Profit make data work for you?

Based on a growing mound of expert opinion, I would even venture to say that the organizations that leverage data and statistics the most effectively, will accomplish their mission statements far more often then those that don’t harness their data. There are many ways that organizations can leverage the statistics to support their organization goals; here are just a few.

1. Promotional material… if you can prove that your product or service is accomplishing X-percentage value-added for your customers/investors, then you have an excellent leg-up on the competition and can plead your case with significantly more gusto. The truth is that 9 out of 10 statistics are not made up and people really rely on the cold, hard numbers to make decisions.

2. Internal auditing… This is a somewhat intimidating way of saying that every organization should have benchmarks for success and matrices for determining satisfactory progress towards those benchmarks. New England Patriots Coach, Bill Belichick said, “Don’t mistake busy-ness for effectiveness.” Organizationally, you HAVE to figure out how effective you are at accomplishing your stated goals in order to keep your interested parties interested.

3. Global strategy… Many organizations are in dying industries and everyone is in a changing industry. The world is moving at breakneck speed and those not aware of just how much and to what degree the changing world will affect their organization will certainly be irrelevant much faster than in previous years. What are you doing to leverage the wealth of accessible data to adjust your organizational goals to achieve success instead of getting left behind.

If the items above seem pretty basic to you, then you’re probably already doing some of the data legwork. Unfortunately however, data is very easy to manipulate even by well-intentioned scrutiny. Quantitative skills are just that… skills, and very few have the capacity to handle numbers in a way that tells the true story, accounting for implicit variables and anomalies.


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How to Leverage Data and Statistics (Part 1)

How do you as a Business or Non-Profit make data work for you?

Everyone is trying to distinguish their organization from the competition. Everyone except the government has to win their audience. Businesses and Non-Profits alike have to put forth a compelling case for their existence and how they do that will ultimately determine their success in fulfilling their goals.

When my dad was in grade school his mom received a note from a teacher that Raymond (my dad) had done a superb job on a social studies report that he wrote. Remember in the era before the internet you were limited by the resources available in the elementary school library. Beaming with pride at the teacher’s note, my mom asked little Raymond how he had produced such convincing statistics. “Simple, I made them up, besides, 9 out of 10 statistics are made up anyway.”

As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, data is all around us. Because everything has numbers associated with it, the ability to quantify data is a vital skill, a skill my dad’s teacher eventually found out that he didn’t have. The chief economist for Google  clearly believes that data scientists and staticisions are going to be the new “sexy occupation”. “You’re probably saying, well of course Google is saying that”, but there are a growing number of experts in a large number of fields that are starting to realize the treasure trove represented by accumulated data.


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Why is Social Media So Popular? (Part 2)

The Truth Behind the Emerging Trend

Social media outlets are just like any business that provide for that social outlet. Essentially what made Facebook king of the social media heap is that they made it easy and convenient to post content and access other’s content. Just like any business, the fewer barriers to satisfy the need (social gratification), generally the more successful that particular business will be.

If you’ve spent time trying to contemplate how you or your organization might leverage society’s need to interact and the amalgamation of networks (aka social media) to your advantage, than you’re not alone. The folks that have harnessed the power of social networking successfully already have something to offer, they just use social media to get the word out… it resonates with people, so individuals interact with it through social mediums.

Here are some ideas for:

- Non-Profits
- Businesses
- Promotors & Marketers

Now this may sound horribly redundant or boring to many of you but it is a strong point that cannot be missed. It is easy to get caught in the belief that the rising tide of social media “floats all boats”. This is just not true. My advise is stick to the basics; make sure you have a good product or service. Only then should you proceed, allocating some resources to a social media campaign but monitor results like you would with any other marketing campaign.

In conclusion, leverage the lessons learned and the knowledge presented by the explosion of social media to hone your message, products and services rather than writing a blank-check for a social media marketing campaign.


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Why is Social Media So Popular? (Part 1)

The Truth Behind the Emerging Trend

Social media is often viewed appropriately as a force to be reckoned with, a bandwagon to get onto or get run over by. However, it is seemingly even more often miscast as a COMPLETE game-changer which it is not, yet as an organization you must know how to best use it.

As a blanket term, social media covers a lot of ground. By definition it comprises media that includes a collaborative, social component. Essentially, that means that people can weigh in on what they think about a certain organization, product or idea. The classic examples of “weighing-in” might include Facebook’s “like” feature or a @Tweet.  Here are the top ten social media websites today as ranked by TopTenReviews.com

1. Facebook.com
2. MySpace.com
3. Bebo.com
4. Friendster.com
5. Hi5.com
6. Orkut.com
7. Perfspot.com
8. Zorpia.com
9. Netlog.com
10. Habbo.com

Basically there are two engines driving this social media hype: The first engine is the ubiquity of the Internet. Because the Internet is literally everywhere, the content available through the Internet is equally ubiquitous. Early movers such as Geocities and Friendster were replaced by MySpace and ultimately dominated by Facebook as top of internet social media heap.

The second engine is the need of humans to be, well, social. This social need drives people to do crazy things like travel thousands of miles during the holidays to be with friends and family; that, and the threat of grudge-holding in-laws.

To Be Continued…


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TED talks and Business Decision-making

In a lecture I watched recently, David Brooks (see link below) a New York Times columnist talked with great passion and humor about how humans by nature are social beings. He talked about the cognitive skill called Equipoise, which is the ability to read and counter for the bias in your own mind; your intuition. For example the columnist put forth the premise that “we, humans, are over confidence machines.”

When Polled by Time Magazine:

- 95% of College Professors are above-average teachers

- 96% of college student have above-average social skills

- 19% of Americans reported they are in the top 1% of earners.


What does that say about our rational decision-making capabilities as humans? It is easy to conclude that what we perceive and believe is intrinsic and true can actually be quite different from absolute reality. A recent study of CEOs by Burson-Marsteller shows that 62% of CEOs rate gut feelings as being highly influential in their business decisions.

So as it pertains to business, how can you leverage this little nugget? Should you absolutely divorce your intuition/personal bias from your decision-making process? You can’t, nor perhaps should you. Your intuition is an in-born “street smarts” designed to help you navigate where you haven’t been before. You need your intuition but you’d unwise and a terrible business leader if you trusted your intuition alone for every decision.

The counters to your personal bias are the cold hard facts. Although the numbers may stifle your dreams or crush your ego, its much better for everyone if you see the reality of a situation as early as possible; and most certainly before an important decision.

Knowledge, born from data and solidified into information must be fundamental in any high-level business decision-making process if your organization is to achieve Equipoise and avoid many of the organizational pitfalls awaiting those who act on instinct and personal bias.

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What’s the Difference?

Data, Information and Knowledge

What is often lacking in today’s organizations is the ability to distinguish between data, information, knowledge and how to leverage that understanding into actionable decisions. The failure to distinguish between these terms in the real world and to make the very necessary connection between them and everyday strategy is what limits the potential of businesses and organizations all of kinds across the globe.

Our western world is increasingly complex and the amount of information the average individual consumes in one week is roughly equivalent to the sum input over the course of a lifetime of the average person only 100 years ago. Based on a Duke University Survey, even elite business leaders usually use relatively rudimentary techniques in the decision-making process

Data is merely a numerical representation of the physical world. We’re surrounded by data, everything has a number. Even while relaxing we’re being inundated with streams of it. If you’re watching a baseball game or any other sport, you’re watching data being created in front of you: Hits, Fouls, Errors, Strikes and Balls, all these are recorded as data.

Information is merely the accumulation of that data. Sportscasters are full of information. They know for example that the New York Yankees have the most expensive roster, they know this because they cluster all the data associated with the Yankees’ player payroll. Information is merely the added dimension of relationship to other data sets.

Knowledge, like information, is another step in the direction of relevance. Knowledge is an accumulation of information but includes the element of analysis; the “why” of that information. The Red Sox’s manager, Terry Francona, is constantly monitoring and evaluating his team’s data. He keeps close tabs on all his players batting and fielding statistics. Francona, like any intelligent coach pays close attention to those streams of data as they cluster to become information and then transform into actionable knowledge, often as quick decisions during a game.

Everyday, individuals and organizations like the Red Sox make a great variety of decisions. How these decisions are made and what they’re based on will ultimately determine the success of that project or enterprise. Knowing the difference between data, information and knowledge and how to make actionable decisions based on that knowledge, will ultimately leverage you and your organization ahead of your competition.

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