Motion Is Not Progress, Big Data & Analytics...Plus, the movie Big!
If you recall the popular 1988 movie Big starring Tom Hanks, you'll remember many funny and quite touching moments as Hanks plays a young boy magically transformed into a grown adult through a seemingly harmless carnival wish made good. Because of the premise a healthy suspension of disbelief is required but, hey, it's the movies. There's actually a few business lessons in this movie if you haven't seen it in a while but one particular moment, which also happens to be very funny, I want to point out.
This moment sets up as Tom Hanks' character Josh realizes he's going to be in this adult body for a while therefore needing to make ends meet while he figures out how he's going to return to his "old" younger self. Through a chance encounter at a toy store with the president of a prominent toy company Hanks is offered an entry level desk job at the president's firm. He arrives at work the next day and, after receiving instructions on what his job responsibilities are going to be, he sits down in his new cubicle and without hesitation begins feverishly working away. The sound of this hard work quickly jolts Josh's cube neighbor (played by Saturday Night Live Alum Jon Lovitz) who quickly jumps to his feet, peeks over their adjoining partition and says, "Hey, slow down. You're making us all look bad if you work that hard." There's many things funny about that situation one of which is the presumption that the "harder" you work the more productive you're going to be. I think it's safe to say that we all know this not to be true.
As a philosopher once said, "Motion is not always progress." Working hard is not working smart.
In today's Big Data and Analytics economy we have to work much smarter unlike any other time in history. We're doing more with less and, as a result, we can't just keep doing things the way we've always done them. Working hard isn't necessarily working smartly and, just because there's proverbial sweat on our brows, doesn't mean it's efficient or effective work. It's a brave new world and we have to adapt to take full advantage of what this onslaught of Big Data can bring. We'll have to be more adept at separating the wheat from the chaff.
A great place to start when determining whether or not you're getting useful information points is to think of the reports and analytics you receive...For most people, this is how they are measuring and monitoring their department's, division's or organization's performance and other key performance measures. The problem is these reports don't tell us...
If your reports and analytics aren't giving answers to the questions that really impact your business and the drivers of your business then make it your mission to understand what information it is that you need from the top-level KPIs to their underlying detail and start knocking down walls to get access to it. This is progress. Motion with purpose.
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Tim O'Bryan, IBM