Large data sets and tiny metaphors

This is endlessly fascinating: a piece in the Sloan Management Review highlights progress on the so-called ‘Internet of Trees’ (6min, paywalled) — a logging industry-specific IoT, with two immediate aims:

use tree-based sensors to monitor soil and fire conditions with extraordinary specificity and efficiency improve the flow of specific trees to logging sites – a process traditionally performed on a tree-by-tree basis. This, rather than the tweeting refrigerator, paints a much richer picture of where our connected sensors and devices are taking us.

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If you missed Michael Erard’s wonderful piece for Aeon on metaphor design (12min), remedy that in short order. An excerpt:

To design metaphors, it helps to have a metaphor for metaphor. I think of it as a room: the windows and doors frame a view toward the reality outside. Put the windows high, people see only the trees. Put them low, they see the grass. Put the window on the south side, they’ll see the sun. Sometimes the room can be empty. Sometimes the views from the room are a bit forced. Or perhaps they’re new and therefore uncomfortable. In those situations, you have to direct people’s attention. You have to give them furniture to sit on that makes your architectural choices unavoidable.

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From a must-read study by Jacques Bughin of McKinsey on the ROI of enterprise investment in big data and analytics (6min), this reminder that the real promise of technology investments still rests in the capacity to invest in people:

When we evaluated its profitability and value-added productivity benefits, we found that they appear to be substantial—similar, in fact, to those experienced during earlier periods of intense IT investment. Our results indicated that to produce these significant returns, companies need to invest substantially in data-analytics talent and in big data IT capabilities.

Values and infrastructure

Of course, great hiring has its own attendant challenges. Danielle Li of Harvard Business School published a provocative study last Fall, suggesting that automated hiring standards (algorithms) made more effective, longer-tenured hires (40min) for low-skilled roles than did experienced managers.

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Neil Perkin points us to a profoundly interesting post by Matt Edgar on the idea of ‘productive informality‘ (12min) — the idea that teams are at their most effective in the absence of formal structure, working instead with heavy doses of collegiality and ‘ambient awareness’.

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Plenty of talk lately about organizational values. Certainly, we put forward our own share. Still, it’s hard not to nod along with Rob Campbell, as he takes on the elegance (2min) of a 1981 Radio Shack (RIP) ad:

so many brands these days spout a bunch of contrived bollocks … either because they haven’t got anything interesting or valuable to say about their product or they’re a faceless corporation attempting to sound ‘purposeful’ by retrofitting some bland, meaningless value-terminology to themselves, despite no one actually giving a _____ about what they say because all they do is exactly the same as everyone else.


End to end services and future customers

Bookmark and return to it: MeasuringU wrote an eminently readable (and replicable) guide to customer sampling (5min), because ‘current customers are in a sense a sample of future customers as well’. We (mostly) agree.

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‘Service design generally involves the complete experience design process while customer experience focuses more on the upkeep of those processes’. Netania Engelbrecht’s post on customer experience vs. service design (5min) for Usabilia splits some hairs, but is a good basis for differentiation.

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Finally, take a few minutes and read Jeremy Ettinghausen’s great piece for the BBH-Labs blog on the ‘last click’ fixation (4min), and our failure to view transactions within the broader context of experience:

Marketers are now hooked on efficiently driving customers along the online journey, often via an ever-expanding and murky network of affiliates, publishers and agencies who feed their habit. Our focus has shifted downstream, multiple brands often focusing on the same point in the journey, using the same channels and tactics to target the same customers. And every time new platforms become available we default to using them, layering them on top of existing journeys, further fragmenting limited resources. Rather than seeking marginal gains at every stage of the journey, perhaps we need to shift to a strategy of aiming for exceptional gains at only one or two.