Why is Data Fake?
We should begin by defining what I mean by “fake”. I simply mean that data is an idea rather than a tangible item. It exists in theory and in the air. It is fake since its significance is less than the significance of human relationships. People exist in the real world. They walk past us on the street and we can feel them when they bump into us. The only reason data is relevant at all is because these people are either producers or consumers of it and care about what insights they can derive from it.
Where is “Out There”? People always talk about the different kinds of data that are “out there”. Where is that exactly? Is “There” an actual place or a fake place? I could argue that it is a fake place because data is invisible. I could probably make a compelling argument that data lives in mid-air.
The Internet is a revolution of modern human innovation. Yes, it connects countless kinds of data in a way that is easily accessible, but this is only important because people care about it. At any given point in time, the same data can live on a physical server, within many different wires on its way to various people who need it, and even in midair via Wi-Fi connections. I struggle to think of another walk of life where we have an object that resides in multiple places at once that we consider “real”. These things are usually seen in cartoons or time travel movies.
How to Properly Care for your Metrics
How many metrics is too many? In my experience, and in discussions I’ve had with many other professionals, I can tell you that what most people think is the right number is in fact too many…usually WAY too many. I call this phenomenon “Metric Mania” and we need to keep it from running wild on you. I’m going to give you all sorts of explanations about how “it depends” and other qualifications. However, in the end, so as not to leave you proverbially hanging, I will also give you concrete best practice numbers to help avoid Metric Mania.
Humans enjoy measuring things, or at least asking others to provide us with the measurements. We want to know how fast our vehicles will go and their fuel economy numbers. We want to know how tall we are and how far we’ve run in our last workout. However, I would guess few of you have ever measured the outer circumference of your house. Why? Because there is no good reason to do this. There is no value to be gained that would justify the effort (except if you live in a town that calculates your property taxes by this method… True Story!). A great way to avoid Metric Mania is to measure things when you have a good reason.
Why are People Real?
People are tangible. They have unpredictable responses to our questions based on their moods, experiences, and perspectives. They do not simply return a predictable response like data does. Furthermore, I will argue that all data is about people in one way or another. People are therefore far more interesting. We spend so much time measuring performance, length, height, distance, volume, and other things, that we forget that those things only matter in the context of how people interact with them.
What is (and isn’t) a Leader?
Simon Sinek has delivered 2 very powerful Ted Talks where he explores his take on this topic. I implore you to watch both of them. They are really eye opening. You can find them here:
He says a leader is like a parent who helps his children feel safe. Leaders also strategically empower people.
The idea that projects transform people into something devoid of all their humanity in favor of creating results-driven robots is one that is strange to me and all too prevalent. Certain situations generate certain feelings from people whether they verbalize them during projects meetings or not. Being belittled by another person generates negative feelings like sadness, resentment, anger, and hopelessness. These feelings don’t go away just because a higher ranking person is delivering them. Recognition and merit-based bonuses generate positive feelings like happiness and gratitude. Surprisingly, empowering people by fully listening to them often generate the same positive feelings. It does not always take money to make people feel good, and people that feel good give their best.
The Philosophy of Clear Communication
Instant messaging has proven to be a valuable business communication tool, especially internally within one’s own company. It helps us quickly learn whether the person we are contacting is online and available. It also allows us to communicate important items quickly rather than waiting for email turnaround time. We use the uber-popular Skype in our projects, but there are countless equally capable competitors.
As instant messaging has become more prevalent in the workplace, so have alternate communication styles like using emoticons to display moods , using non-standard acronyms concocted on the fly, and even proposing deeply philosophical questions to our colleagues like “R U There”, or any of its even more confusing counterparts like “RYT” or “yt?”. The first time someone asked me this question via Skype, I felt like Aristotle pondering the meaning of the universe. I thought to myself, “If I am here, any answer I give will prove this fact. If I am not here, I obviously will not respond.” Since I was then in full character, I drifted into additional questions, “Where is there?”, “Is there here?”, “Who am I?”, “Who is this person asking me such a difficult question?”.
Finding Project Allies
People need advocates, in business and in life. They need someone who cares enough to focus on their best assets. They need someone to help them find new and innovative ways these assets can create the most value and the biggest sense of accomplishment. When I interview potential candidates for business analyst positions, I do not ask them about their strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of what euphemism we use for “weaknesses”, discussing them is not empowering people. It causes them to dwell on what they don’t do well. Although there is something to be said for helping willing participants develop new skills, this comes only after gaining their trust by fully leveraging the things they already do well.
Why is Data Fake while People are Real?
Data is fake because in a vacuum it is actionless. It is only valuable to the extent that it moves human beings to action or makes an impact in the lives of human beings. Human beings are both the input and the output of data processing. Without them, there would be no need for it, so we need to remember the value of treating humans like humans instead of task-oriented robots. Together, we can Re-humanize the American workforce 1 human at a time.