Data vision?

Many of my clients and contacts are extremely enthusiastic about the potential of Big Data combined with advanced analytics, and not at all interested in my reservations about things like how to decide what data to include and who or what (algorithms that only very few understand) determines the outcome of an analysis. I agree that insight can trigger good ideas, but still think that truly great ideas, the ones that create a real advantage, need the human imagination. After all, collected data predominantly describe the past and we are far worse at predicting the future than we want to believe.

In the meantime it seems to me that the prevailing mindset of “collect anything, all you can, find correlations and thus new opportunities” is spreading like a bushfire in strong wind. ( i.e. the rapidly descending cost of data storage)

My main worry is that we’re letting new technology run away with us, instead of using it cleverly to create real improvements. The fire might over shout human vision and imagination as a source for ideas. I haven’t seen to many people being motivated or inspired by a plot of a strong correlation.

Could this focus all energy on the shorter term improvements and push long term vision out of sight?
This could lead to companies trying to steer on increasingly shorter term by analyzing more and more data, thus spiraling into increasing short term stress.

In front of me loomed a scenario of robotizing people, lost if the data doesn’t tell them what to do.Data vision

But, I might not have been looking in the right places, so let’s talk to some insiders to see where we stand in real life, before I turn too cynical.

Good news! It’s very reassuring to hear a well-respected, top CIO ensure me that the key requirement for any Big Date type initiative in his organization is end-customer benefit.
Better still, he agreed strongly that technology and human vision, creativity should work hand in hand.

What’s more: after years and years of process improvements, reorganizations and cost-cutting, this relatively new field supports further improvements. The advantages achieved that were mentioned to me are largely in the area of efficiency and effectiveness.
The cost of a marketing campaign decimated while the return is much better. Improving the service experience of the customer by continuous monitoring of his or her use of the product and then pro-actively arranging maintenance. That sort of thing.

6 Sigma and Lean had introduced data analysis as improvement tool to manufacturing and other processes, the next wave is in the area of marketing , sales and service. I worked on a green belt 6 Sigma project in the field of marketing and sales while at GE in the 1990’s, and experienced how difficult it was then to get sensible data. That’s completely changed. The down side might be for the marketeers: they were already struggling to get away from behind a screen, now the chance of meeting a real customer will be even further reduced. But that’s fine: no need to talk to customers anymore, the data tells you more about their needs than the customers know themselves…..

Concluding that there are plenty of process improvement and enhancement opportunities left, means that there seems to be no need to get panicky about data analysis setting our course completely. (For a while at least.)
However, not all worries have disappeared; in several companies I met a very limited number of specialists (with illusive descriptions like econometrists) determine how and where to search and what to look for. That’s a lot of responsibility concentrated in a small place. Especially so if the entire team consists solely of bright youngsters fresh out of university.

So, some obvious questions seem to arise; are the new searchers / analysts close enough to people with fresh ideas at multiple levels of the business to create a very fruitful cooperation?
Are we growing a new profession in the form of data analysts or will these tools soon be made usable for the people running and building their business? (In other words; will these specialist be able to make themselves redundant by developing tools so the rest of us can do the magic? Would you?)
Can big data and the subsequent analytics be a strong feeder of great vision? After all the latter is what inspires people and makes great, sustainable, companies and great products. I sincerely hope that the exiting new technical possibilities don’t make us lose sight of the role of our human vision.


Breakthrough insight

 

Breaking organisational tention

Breaking organisational tention

Many, many hours of fruitless discussion, arguments or even internal warfare can be surpassed by visualising the internal tension.
In this case the one between commerce and delivery in a fast growing organisation.
Instantly recognisable, this caused a smile on many faces, breaking the tension and opening the path to fruitful cooperation. So, what’s the value of a spot on sketch?


And then it’s 2014!

Visual Strategy 2014 wish sketchMy best wishes to you for this new year! I tried my own strategy for 2013, and it worked very well for me. So well that there was no time to write a new blog post. It’s my new year’s resolution to do better this year.
Starting with a drawing that hopefully triggers people to think a little, and whis you a very healthy and inspiring new year in the process.

My thoughts while making this?

Some of the trees in fore ground represent things like our trust in bankers, trust in a big national bank that appeared to do better than the others thusfar…, our respect for big accountants, the pride of the Greeks, and many more that came down in 2013.
Some rightfully so, others not.
As you can see the big trees of the financial system were much too close together for their size. Something had to give.
The small young tree represents the breakthrough in the field of cancer: using the body’s own immune system to cure the disease.
Apparently our thinking had drifted so far from nature and the human scale that this is a breakthrough.
Let’s hope for much more of this type of good stuff in 2014! And that we can leave the remaining trees to grow further.

 


Strategy for 2013

GB Shaw inspiration

Inspiration is the root of innovation. Most people associate innovation with something new, and rightfully so. Fortunately the elements that make up a new solution don’t need to be all new themselves. The essence is a new combination of existing elements.

A fresh look at things, an open mind, interest to look around and try new combinations; that’s a great way to be inspired and create solutions. The building blocks can be found everywhere. Example?

Recently I rediscovered George Bernard Shaw (1854 – 1950). General consultant to mankind.
His perspective is still fresh and his views inspire me.
Let me share some that I think are very useful for the issues we face:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself”.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.

“A man of great common sense and good taste – meaning thereby a man without originality or moral courage”.

“All great truths begin as blasphemies”.

“the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself, therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it”.

Hopefully they will also inspire you and many more people to create great solutions to the many issues we face in business, healthcare, the environment, and many more fields.

In my view it’s a great strategy for our part of the world, Europe, to focus on creativity and innovation. We have enough ingredients, let’s add some inspiration! Thanks, George.


2 geworden! Een terugblik en dan verder versnellen.

Begin deze maand vierde Visual Strategy haar tweede verjaardag!

Allereerst veel dank aan alle klanten die het mogelijk gemaakt hebben dat Visual Strategy al zover gekomen is. Daarnaast is dat een mooi moment om te kijken waarmee die klanten in de afgelopen twee jaar echt geholpen zijn. Wat is nou de grootste toegevoegde waarde van Visual Strategy geweest? Een analyse van de eigen product-en klantenportfolio laat zien dat in 70% van de business het Visual stuk doorslaggevend is.( Gelukkig maar, zou je zeggen met zo’n naam.) Voor diegene die zich afvraagt wat de overige 30% was: interim management op commercieel gebied.  Daarin was de management-, business- en motivatie/ inspiratie expertise bepalend.

Waarom hebben onze klanten visuals nodig?

Vooraf een korte toelichting op de situatie bij onze klanten voordat we aan de slag gingen.

  • Soms was er al een strategie en of een visie, maar bleef die “in de boardroom hangen”.
  • In andere gevallen was er niet meer dan een sense of urgency dat er iets moest veranderen.Vanzelfsprekend volgde dan een wat langer traject om eerst de kern te vinden, opties te generen, te kiezen, enz.
  • Vaak ook is er een complex verandertraject, met een lange historie, dat inzichtelijk gemaakt moet worden om de als organisatie de volgende stappen te kunnen zetten.
  • Tot slot: we hebben met groot plezier en succes voor een aantal klanten een bedrijfsproces inzichtelijk gemaakt, verbeterd en ingevoerd.

    Tegen deze achtergrond een eerste drie lessen uit de praktijk:

1 Visual Strategy versterkt de energie stromen.

Een visie of een strategie komen krachtig over als er een goed verhaal te vertellen is.

Een directeur, divisie manager of ondernemer zoekt naar een krachtige manier om zijn of haar visie of de bedrijfsstrategie over te brengen op de medewerkers, aandeelhouders of mogelijke investeerders. Samen met Visual Strategy wordt het verhaal helder gemaakt , verbeterd en uiteindelijk in beeld (tekening) samengevat. Vervolgens blijken er twee, elkaar versterkende, energie stromen te ontstaan;

Ten eerste neemt bij het management team waarmee het beeldverhaal gecreëerd wordt, het enthousiasme om het verhaal uit te gaan dragen enorm toe. Met een of twee gave platen voor de troepen staan is veel leuker dan weer een serie powerpoints voorbij laten komen. Dit enthousiasme van de verteller is cruciaal voor verder succes.

Ten tweede snapt het publiek heel snel wat de bedoeling is. Daardoor krijgen meer mensen sneller zin om hun bijdrage te leveren aan de realisatie. Al tijdens de presentatie is dit merkbaar voor de presentator. Die daar op haar/zijn beurt weer energie van krijgt.

Effect van dit alles: snellere en breder gedragen executie van de plannen à sneller een beter resultaat dan eerst voor mogelijk gehouden.

Conclusie volgens de klant: Visual Strategy helpt om ons verhaal effectief te vertellen!

2 Visuals helpen om nieuwe klanten te winnen!

Potentiële klanten hebben geen uren de tijd om een verkoop verhaal over een nieuw product of dienst aan te horen. Uw waardepropositie moet in korte tijd helder over komen. Visual Strategy heeft voor een aantal van haar klanten een nieuwe dienst helpen vormgeven en inzichtelijk gemaakt wat die dienst voor de eindklant gaat opleveren.

En ook hier een belangrijk neveneffect: de “verkoper” heeft veel plezier in naar de markt gaan met zijn nieuwe verhaal! Wat levert het uw bedrijf op als uw sales mensen met een big smile op pad gaan en met succes terugkomen?

 3  Visuals creëren Grote versnelling.

Een verhouding van 200 : 1 is meerdere keren gehaald!  Hoe kom ik daarbij?
De hoeveelheid input materiaal, gemeten in de dikte van het totale stapel documenten, in verhouding tot de uiteindelijke visuele representatie van het geheel.  Dat is de kracht die we ervaren hebben wanneer je van lineaire tekst en gesproken woord naar een slim samengesteld beeld gaat.

Zoals Winston Churchill eens zei: “I’m going to make a long speech because I’ve not had the time to prepare for a short one.”

Het kost tijd om een effectieve plaat te creëren.
Van een doorlooptijd van enkele weken tot een half jaar. Daarbij is het echter geen uitzondering dat het team daarvoor al enkele jaren tevergeefs bezig was om het eigen verhaal goed over de bühne te brengen. Van 150 weken naar 5 weken;  geen 200: 1, maar wel een enorme versnelling!


The zero change scenario

The manager and his religion, when stings stay as they are

Cause

To me the widespread belief in the Holy Grail of making money is one of the causes for many, if not all, critical issues we face. This single focus leads to behavior that fills the headlines today. That’s the tip of the iceberg, and bankers aren’t the only ones. The underlying human hunger for power and status are beyond reach for now, but maybe a view on the end game of the current global religion can help speed up change.

Sustainability

For all clarity; there’s nothing wrong with earning a decent living, but money should be the result of a valuable contribution made, not the main objective as such. Not if you aim for sustainability.
The attention for durability, customer happiness, stakeholders etc. is a good sign, but isn’t moving fast enough yet to counter the pace of the destruction of the environment or the rise of bonuses.

Effect

The key issue with this religion is it’s love for short term. It leaves no room for the long term vision and thinking that helps true innovation. If this path is continued, it could lead to the lonely manager begging for salvation at the same alter that caused his misery.

With this vision in mind it will be easier to recognize the signs. Then we move to the next step: a shared need for change. Once we have that the fun part starts: creating new options, for sustainable competitive advantage, happy customers that tell their friends to buy from you and profitable growth. I’m ready, how about you?


Time to praise the generalist

World of specialists

Deep domain knowledge is often appreciated and experts are easily labelled. That makes us feel comfortable. But does it help us solve the complex issues we face today, never mind tomorrow?  It’s time to see the value that the generalist can bring; puttting the right elements together, combining the content of several boxes.

Thats why great orchestra’s have a conductor, and why creating an exciting future for you and your company can’t be done by number crunching and analysis only.

The warning lights are on for those willing to see. Look for the generalists in your organisation, or invite some if you can’t find them, and work together to find some blue sky. It might not be comfortable at first, but will turn out much better that you imagined.  Give it a try!