Tag Archives: Data

THE HIDDEN DANGER IN YOUR DATA

Howard Tullman B&Wby Howard Tullman

From the Journal of the Heartland Angels

Today, entrepreneurs have tools and technologies to collect, monitor, and document more data than ever before. You’re likely swimming in data, since customers leave a trail of it everywhere to be captured and analyzed in real time. As I’ve often said, in business, what gets measured (and acknowledged and rewarded) is what gets done. I haven’t changed my belief about that, but I have come to see that we are putting too much emphasis strictly on the numbers. Numbers don’t lie, but they never tell the whole story. They can only take you so far before they top out and you need something qualitative and experiential to get to the right conclusions.

Pie Chart Hesitation

Peter Drucker’s dictum “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has created a whole generation of leaders so focused on perfecting their company’s processes that they lose sight of the company’s purpose. I hear managers all the time talking about the need to get more work out of their people when they should be trying to get the best work out of them. Optimizing (not maximizing) the team’s output is what matters most to the ultimate success of a business. Working smarter and more effectively—not necessarily longer or harder—is how you ultimately move ahead of the competition.

You need to be exceedingly careful these days that you don’t let the ease of access and the ubiquity of massive amounts of quantitative performance data cause you to over-emphasize the math and measurements—and thereby lose sight of the far more important qualitative attributes of what’s going on. Not everything is easy to measure or quantify, but that doesn’t make these things less important; it just makes your job as manager tougher. But when you get so wrapped up in the measurement process that it becomes the goal itself, it loses its effectiveness. It’s easy to confuse movement with progress, but not all motion is forward. And lots of activities that run up the numbers aren’t remotely productive. Measuring is easy; measuring better is tough.

When you let the numbers drive the train, you give up two important advantages that are critical to your success. First, the goal isn’t to be the thermometer; it’s to be the thermostat. It’s not about measuring the heat; it’s about generating and controlling the heat. You don’t want the analytics to lead you; they’re a useful benchmark and a guide for course corrections, but it’s your job to set the direction and move the business forward. Second, when you get so focused on specific and concrete financial results (sales targets, growth rates, etc.) and you direct all your team’s energies toward getting as close to achieving those numbers as possible, you actually limit your ultimate upside because you lose the ability to think and see beyond those immediate goals. When a game-changing opportunity arises or a quantum shift occurs in your sales prospects, your team will likely be so heads-down chasing those numbers that someone else will come along and grab the new brass ring.

Black Hole of Data

Here are three principles that have helped me resist the temptation to get too caught up in the numbers—and focus on what truly matters at my company:

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Elaboration is a form of pollution

Tell your team to keep it simple. No one gets paid by the page, and shorter is almost always better. I’ve found that when people expand and extend their plans, proposals, and presentations, there’s a high degree of likelihood that they’re concerned about the value of their pitch, so they try to bury it in a boatload of facts, figures, charts, citations, and everything else that just hides the hard truth. It’s better for everyone when your people put things right out there—front and center—and take their medicine if that’s what’s called for. If you torture the numbers long enough, they’ll say whatever you like, but that’s not any way to get to the truth or the right result.

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Not everything is worth doing well

Tell your team that everyone’s always on the clock. There’s an opportunity cost associated with everything you do, so choosing what not to do (and how extensively to do the things you need to do) is critical in any startup which has scarce resources and time. Some things just don’t warrant the full-court press, and it’s important to make sure that everyone knows that that’s okay with you. Other things shouldn’t be done at all, and you should never try to do things cheaply that just aren’t worth doing. It’s never easy to turn people down or say, “No,” to marginal choices, but it’s part of the job.

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No one’s ever measured how much the heart can hold

Ultimately, the value of the critical connections your people make every day with your clients and customers can only be roughly approximated by even the best math. But it’s those daily personal and emotional interactions with your empowered employees that build crucial engagement as well as the lifetime value of those buyers for your business. You need to give your team permission to do what’s best for the customer in the moment that the opportunity arises. If they need to consult a rule book or have a calculator handy to do the math, they’ll lose the value of the moment every time. The best businesses don’t worry about the number or sheer volume of moments–they work to make each moment matter.

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Howard Tullman is a philosopher, investor, and Chicago entrepreneur.   For more from Howard, go to

http://tullman.blogspot.com

www.1871.com/

Read his bio: http://tullman.com/resume.asp

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This article appeared in the following publicatons:

News From Heartland  http://news.HeartlandAngels.com

INC Magazine  http://www.inc.com/

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Graphics: Getty Images, MS Office, H Tullman

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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THE STORY BEHIND BIG DATA

John Jonelis

Big DataThere’s a lot of buzz about Big Data these days. By Big Data, we’re talking Big Mountains of Data. The manipulation of this resource will change the world and do it soon. I hear plenty of lofty goals for the benefit of mankind but destructive ends also seem likely. So what can we expect? I’m here to pass along the short version in plain language.

Tonight we’re treated to speakers from Oracle, CABI, and Narrative Science – a business that grew out of the artificial intelligence labs at the University of Chicago and Northwestern.

Pound for pound, Chicago’s MIT Enterprise Forum is always dense with PhDs and Thought Leaders. I spot a VC in a room dominated by businessmen, academics and MIT alumni. Josh London from Wellter moderates this high-powered session.

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Distilled Data

Louis Nagode – Oracle

Louis A Nagode

Louis A Nagode … jaj

Louis Nagode is a self-proclaimed geek, but he’s world-renowned, with 30 years of business intelligence under his belt. When he talks Big Data, he’s thinking an aggregate of an enormous bulk of worldwide information—ultimately all the knowledge in the world. He says we’re creating data at a phenomenal rate. In the next 2 years we’ll create more data than ever existed before. The key to using it, according to Nagode, is distilling it down to useful information. He breaks it down into four “Vs”:

  • Volume—(How do you process it all?)
  • Velocity—(How fast does it change?)
  • Variety—(How do you make use of it?)
  • Value—(How do you make sense of it?)

The big question is this: Can we use Big Data to reduce workload for people, manufacturing, and other altruistic purposes? The next two speakers give concrete answers to that.

Nagode talks about alternatives to databases—alternatives like HDFS, the distribution of data across multiple computers around the globe. That’s data that can be harnessed.

Oracle Logo

To sift out what we need to know he uses a map-reduce pipeline. Look it up if you want, but it boils down to this: You no longer need a structured query language like SQL. Bottom line, it’s getting a lot easier to use data. Let’s move on and see just how easy this gets:

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From Data to Story

Kristian Hammond – Narrative Science

Kristian Hammond - JAJ

Kristian Hammond … jaj

Hammond built the artificial intelligence lab at both the University of Chicago and Northwestern. Now he’s built a Chicago company that takes numbers and symbols and communicates the hidden insights in a more human form. Let me put it more directly: He transforms Big Data into words and narrative. In other words, STORY!

Numbers require expert analysis. Graphs help visualize numbers but we’re still looking at only an 8% penetration. Stories, on the other hand, are highly accessible. They communicate beyond data and tell you things you can’t see. After all, narrative is the way we’ve communicated as long as we’ve been human.

His system produces a short narrative that tells your company the pertinent facts, then gives a summary—A SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU CAN DO THIS WEEK TO MAKE YOUR COMPANY BETTER. We’re not talking about overseas labor knocking this stuff out—no, machines are doing it using artificial intelligence!

Narrative Science Logo

Hammond gives an example of a food chain using corporate analytics. The data says that sales of Reuben sandwiches are down. The STORY gives the company easy-to-understand and actionable recommendations, something like this: “Reuben Sandwiches are this week’s weakest menu item with average sales of 136.7 units. Bringing sales up to norm means $7.2MM in added revenue overall. This requires only 6 more sales per store per day.” Now that’s useful information that people can understand and act on.

According to Hammond, people have forgotten the business reasons for data. By telling them the business side in Story, the data becomes immediately useful. As he puts it, “Story is the last mile in Big Data.”

What about education? His system give feedback on an exam with advice on how to improve a student’s performance: “In physics, you need to focus on the Theory of Relativity. Look back to Chapters 5 and 6 of the text.”

How about a sector report for stock analysis? Or a seasonality report for commodity analysis? Why not pull down the Twitter data of all the speakers at a conference and give it out as written analysis? What about a data-driven narrative for media? Turns out that’s a natural. Hey, this could put me out of business!

So how does it work? They analyze nuance and word choice 200 ways plus adjectives and adverbs. They match the client’s written “voice.” They can generate different styles using the same machine. According to Hammond, “Any data, any story, we can do it.”

Now let’s look into using Big Data on a grand scale:

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Use it for Good

Roland Dietz – CABI, IERG, Focused Connections Partners

Roland Dietz - JAJ

Roland Dietz … jaj

Dietz showed us Big Data in use on the world stage. His organization predicts infestations in plant or animal populations worldwide.

They can show a farmer what might happen to his crop. To do that, they combine data from around the world on climate, soil composition, movement of materials, markets, and many other sources. This model is open source. The data is freely given and freely distributed.

The profit is in what they do with Big Data. As he put it, “We start with tons of information, then identify its significance. That becomes our competitive edge.”

CABI Logo

For example, let’s say you track the movement of a pest that destroys coffee plantations. You know the various soils, plant densities, climates, population centers, and topography worldwide. With this, you can predict where the plague will spread.

Some governments don’t want to join CABI, but the group has done good work, even in Korea and Pakistan. When countries see that the organization isn’t political, they accept them. Some are restrictive about what they share because they don’t understand the consequences. But when they find out some of the unexpected benefits of Big Data, they open up.

Big Data at Emmi Solutions - JAJ

Big Data at Emmi Solutions … jaj

Takeaways

  • Constant Change—The ecosystem is non-linear and always in flux. Using Big Data means doing analysis in real time.
  • Analysis—Data without an expert is useless. But just like any science, you come up with a theory based on the data. Then you test it. The scientific method is very much alive and well.
  • Opportunities—The biggest opportunities identified so far are in healthcare, world agriculture, education, and evidence-based decision making in business.
  • Privacy—This is a huge question that needs to be answered. More and more, people accept constantly observation. But how is the data used? If, for instance, a telecom company has significant insight into YOU, do they keep it proprietary? Can an organization publish information on coffee production in Senegal without permission? I suggested that I’d love to get my hands on coffee pest data to gain an edge trading commodity futures.
  • Ethics—Turns out, these speakers aren’t the ones to address this issue.  “It’s above my pay grade,” said one. But might not Big Data be used for evil purposes? A member of the audience suggested the specter of ethnic cleansing. Like nuclear power, the possibilities for both altruistic and destructive goals seem endless.

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Contacts

Louis A Nagode—

Oraclehttp://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/index.html

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Kristian Hammond—

Narrative Sciencehttp://www.narrativescience.com/

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Roland Dietz—

Focused Connections Partners http://focusedconnectionspartners.com/

CABIhttp://www.cabi.org/ – a not-for-profit international organization that improves lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment.

IERGhttp://www.iergonline.org/ – (International Executive Resource Group) – A not for profit organization of senior business executives from around the world.

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Josh London—

Wellterhttp://www.wellter.com/ – Enables employees to comparison-shop for healthcare providers.

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The Venue—

Emmi Solutionshttp://www.emmisolutions.com/ – builds patient empowerment solutions for health organizations that measurably impact outcomes. Their offices are a terrific venue for this event. By the way, they’re still looking for talent. Check out this link: www.EmmiSolutions.com/Careers Looks like a great place to work.

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MIT Enterprise Forum, Chicagohttp://www.mitefchicago.org/

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GO BACK TO PART 1 – WHO’S RUNNING THE ASYLUM

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.
Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under CABI, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Data, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, Financial Markets, IERG, Information, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, MIT Enterprise Forum, MITEF, Northwestern, Oracle, University of Chicago

ALTERNATE HISTORIES

Monte Carlo Simulation

ALTERNATE HISTORIES – John Jonelis – White Paper (pdf)

ALTERNATE HISTORIES – John Jonelis – Journal of the MTA (pdf)

The Back Story

Mr. X offers a seductive and pricey stock trading system and a poor dupe buys it.  What if it were you?  That may sound funny (and it is) but the real question before us is the way in which we view and understand data.  We all use data in one way or another. But how predictive is it? How can we find out?

As it turns out there’s an easy way. It’s called a Monte Carlo simulation and it’s been hidden in the obscurity of academia for too long. Now anybody can measure the nature of a data set, be it trading results, survey results, demographic data, or what have you. With modern software, the analysis is visual and intuitive. And the software can be free.

Reviews

ALTERNATE HISTORIES is a white paper published as the lead article in the Journal of Technical Analysis – Issue 63, Market Technicians Association. Here are some reviews from people you might find familiar:

“Wow! I just picked up the 2005 issue of the Journal of Technical Analysis and the first article by John Jonelis has the right stuff. It describes a visual approach to statistical analysis of trading systems that any numerically-phobic technician ought to find comfortable/intuitive. Stats don’t have to be a gauntlet, the basic ideas are common sense, an idea that Mr. Jonelis demos nicely. Kudos to our great editor Charlie Kirkpatrick and his reviewers.”
John Bollinger, CFA, CMT http://www.bollingerbands.com/

“ Not having that much education about the topic, I was able to follow what you were saying. It was very clearly and logically written, easy to follow. I particularly enjoyed the not so hypothetical examples you set up, which made it much more real” Gregory Leifel, Chairman BAAC and author of “The Day I Met Walt Whitman” ISBN 0-9679997-0-7

“Your article was of the caliber that the MTA would like to see published in the Journal of Technical Analysis.” Charles Kirkpatrick, Editor

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Read it on PDF

ALTERNATE HISTORIES – John Jonelis – White Paper (pdf)

ALTERNATE HISTORIES – John Jonelis – Journal of the MTA (pdf)

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Chicago Venture Magazine, CORE Insight Story, White Papers