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Can Numbers be Creative, Can Numbers be Imaginative? 0

Author, ERIC SIEGEL, PhD, is the founder of Predictive Analytics World and Executive Editor of the Predictive Analytics Times. Eric makes the how and why of predictive analytics understandable and captivating.

Joe: When we look at this, data certainly plays a part but people would refute the fact that data can tell the future. I always use this Einstein quote "Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.” Can numbers be creative, can numbers be imaginative?

Related Podcast and Transcription: Predicting with Analytics


Eric Siegel: That’s a great question; I would say yes because as I’ve mentioned earlier – the core method here is predictive modeling, academically known as machine learning. It is literally looking at data, the history of many transactions of how things turn out in the past in order to learn how to predict under new circumstances for a consumer who has a new profile and new history of behavior that’s never been seen before and to robustly be able to apply what’s been learned. That is you’ve actually not just discovered a pattern that shows up in this particular data set, but that actually holds in general. There is an art to that; it is amazing kinds of things that come out of it; it can’t be visualized ultimately by human thought process because computers can do things in a multidimensional way. It’s all about finding that model that looks at all the different factors about an individual, both demographic and behavioral, and consider them together in concert to come up with the best prediction for that individual. The means; the mechanism to do that is the model is the thing that predicts is the thing that’s learned or output from the predictive modeling process.

I would say yes, there’s definitely creativity, I devoted a chapter to how amazing the results ended up being as far as the IBM Watson computer that learns from Jeopardy, the TV quiz show Jeopardy, questions and how to answer new ones – that’s an amazing story. However, unlike that story, usually it’s not about accuracy, so you premise your question just now by saying, “some people say you can’t really predict very well,” the fact is in general, especially with human behavior and the weather for that matter; there’s a real limit to how far ahead and in what way we can accurately predict. It turns out that the use of this technology on all of these different operations and getting value from it does not hinge on the accuracy. Predicting better than guessing, often significantly better than guessing, is what makes the difference and what provides value in running mass operations more effective.


Related Podcast and Transcription: Predicting with Analytics

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New to Visual Storytelling? 0

Next week’s podcast guest is Ekaterina Walter, a passionate marketer, who writes and speaks on topics of leadership, business innovation, and digital revolution. She is the author of Think Like Zuck and a new book, The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand. Below is an excerpt from the podcast.

Joe: What’s the mistake someone makes when they first enter into Visual Storytelling? What are some of the traps I need to avoid?

Ekaterina: They try to cram a lot of marketing messaging or product messaging into a very small space. They try to force it down people’s throats. And people don’t want to build relationships with you just because all they want to see is your product information. They want to build relationships with you because they want to hear you but also be heard. They want that really two way relationship. So that biggest mistake is we’re trying to design something really cool and really useful but let’s make sure that our marketing product message is crammed everywhere where we can find a free corner.

Another mistake is even doing that design wise. If you have something cool that works but “Oh well no there needs to be a bunch of text in here because people will really not get it.” If you have to cram a bunch of text into a really cool visual that’s self-explanatory, then that visual is not self-explanatory enough. So there are a lot of those mistakes where people still want to cram words in where they sometimes need to leave people to guess a little bit or give people whitespace to noodle on the image that you’re providing or whatever message you’re trying to convey without being too prescriptive.

Joe: So we need whitespace?

Ekaterina: You know whitespace – there are a lot of studies that have been done that say that whitespace is fantastic for creativity. Steve Jobs used to go away for a number of days to just go to an orchard or sit with Buddhas and just think and clear his mind and come back with amazing thoughts on product design. So whitespace is definitely a friend of creativity.

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A Strength Based Lesson thru Visuality 0

Bob Petruska, author of Gemba Walks for Service Excellence: The Step-by-Step Guide for Identifying Service Delighters discussed what he learned (part 2 of 2) about  Sur-Seal Corporation after listening to the podcast (part 1of 1) with Mick Wilz, Director of Enterprise Excellence and Co-Owner of Sur-Seal.

Related Podcasts and Transcription: Lessons in Visuality

I asked Bob Petruska during the podcast, I know you do a lot of strength-based work, how is that applied in Sur-Seal? Where are the strength-based points that you saw in what Mick said?


Bob Replied: I look at pretty much everything that Mick does is strength-based. He’s not focusing on the deficit. He’s focusing on a future, a positive future that people can change. By allowing people to make decisions on the floor, on the battlefield so to speak, he’s allowing people to learn. Too often in organizations we don’t let people make decisions. We say you know what, we’re the boss. We’re going to make all the decisions. But then guess what; you own the outcomes whereas I think what Mick is doing are something slightly different. He’s saying, “I don’t know all the answers. Why don’t you tell us what it is that we need to do?”

As I’ve talked to him and as I’ve learned from him, and you can watch the video on his website sur-seal.com. You can watch the people that work at Mick’s factory, and they’ll tell it to you in their own words. It’s just amazing to watch because there’s such a pride. There’s one gal there that says, “I was part of that.” They’re just so proud of the fact that they got to work on the future. And the model, the Legos model, is a brilliant way to allow people to have the time to absorb it and for them to buy into the whole idea of the change and use it in a way that speaks to their strengths.


Related Podcasts and Transcription: Lessons in Visuality

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The Beautifulness of Chaos in Sales 1

One of my pet-peeves is this process thinking mentality that we can apply a tool like value-stream mapping and create a more efficient sales process, by getting rid of unnecessary steps and action. People are always looking for a template that they can follow and ZaZoom, sales increases. Though there is some truth that we can increase efficiencies by mapping some defined process, I hardly think that is really what we desire in our sales process.

Sales is an inefficient process. Always has been and always will be.  As Dan Pink explains, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, so why don’t we leave it be that way. Humans are not wired to interact in a linear fashion. We are even finding out that though hierarchy needs to exist in organizations that there is another component that also needs to exist. A more chaotic component.

Our organizations need hierarchy structure to get things done. It is an efficient way to disseminate the work and make decisions. However, in many sales opportunities we are put in the position that we must extend beyond features and benefits. Excuse the redundancy, but sales must be the ones to create opportunities (Think Challenger Sale: Lean Salespeople are Challengers, not Problem Solvers).

Some sales opportunities can use a step by step process. It requires a market that operates in a very similar way across a wide spectrum and has a defined collection of information. You can organize information with little interpretation and pass it on to your sales people to manage and benefit from this “perfect data”. I apologize for my limited viewpoint, but I am having trouble finding markets like that anymore.

Our information and data are anything but linear, it is all being interpreted. Reality demands that we cut across boundaries and make things happen. Agility and speed of acting on this information is imperative. To get things done we short-circuit that hierarchy and use our existing tribal knowledge. When doing that we organize and operate in clusters not hierarchies.

Does this mean chaos exist with sales people? Not at all, it means that though we have a streamline efficient process for sales, we also blend in that chaotic structure as an underlying process that can be organized and defined within our sales unit. It should not be seen as something that is wrong and penalized for not following the process. Rather it should be governed by our understanding of how to develop new opportunities and the reaction to them.

These chaotic structures should be seen as clusters creating collaborative atmosphere. This seldom insures the best answer gets enacted. However, it does insure a better possibility that something does get enacted. It takes away that paralysis from trying to force fit our product/service. No longer are we trying to gather buy-in to get something accomplished, but rather change is being driven from a sense of joint accountability. The best action taken becomes the best implementable action. It is a different way of enacting change. It is a different way of working with a customer. Could it work for you?

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From Startup Entrepreneur to Storyteller 0

Making the transition from startup entrepreneur and storyteller, today John Gray is a full time freelance writer. John GrayHe enjoys sharing stories about startups, entrepreneurs, and emerging technology. It’s all about exploring the intersection of our human experience with technology. He’s a regular contributor to BetaKit and can be found on twitter at grayspective.

 

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Are Your Personas Flawed? 0

You validate with the marketplace all those User Personas or Buyer Personas that you create. There is a lot of science to them backed up by hard data when it is required. In fact, they are one of the hottest design topics around and one of the FIRST things we create. Sometimes right after or right before that customer journey map we create. User Persona

I have always challenged people in workshops to create their own persona and their own journey of incoming and outgoing workflows. It is a challenge for most to get very far removed from themselves. At the furthest point, I then ask them to create a persona of that person. If that person happens to be in the same room, we compare.

The idea of a persona is where we get the icon for drama, the two masks of comedy and tragedy. In theatre, the older mask were leather and shaped into magnificent forms, but on the inside the masks conform to the actor’s face. So on the inside, you have the actors face and on the outside the shape of the character.

Our personas are commonly created the same way. They conform to our inside thinking. We will have a workshop placing post-it-notes on the wall creating these personas. We come to an agreement and start with the next exercise, often never returning to validate the information. This exercise is a brainstorming exercise, not a user persona.

Others will create the material with some data they have collected and validate the information through customer surveys or interviews and other quantitative or qualitative data. These personas are more accurate but still flawed. It is hard to separate yourself from your mask.

Your perspective creates the way you see the world. When you are creating a persona you are taking events and people opinions that are heavily influenced by your culture and surroundings. Can you ever be objective with a persona? How many times when you have uncovered something uncomfortable is it justified as an exception?

That persona that you created about a co-worker above, how close was it to the actual truth? The truth is what you imagine for others is very different from actual experience.

Creating personas is a tough exercise, a few tips:

  1. Go to the actual place that value is created, the point of use.
  2. Observing, and/or interviewing with multiple people from multiple disciplines.
  3. Have people record audio and/or video of what they saw.
  4. Create stories about the interaction
  5. Have real users/customers critique your persona
  6. Use outside sources to collect part of the data and perform any of the steps above.
  7. Induce failure of the product/service and observe reaction
  8. Believe what others say.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive by any means. What other ideas are there for creating good personas? Creating separation from the internal mask?

Iterative Approach to Book Writing 0

Should you make little stories into larger chapters? How iterative is someone’s approach? I posed these questions to Peter Sims, author of the book, "Little Bets." In the book, Peter discusses through stories the power of iterative cycles. 

Related Podcast and Transcription: Iterative Cycles Viewed as Little Bets


Peter Sims: Well, I wanted it to be a great book. I wanted it to be a book that was extremely well researched. So what you see is at the top of an iceberg. The starting point is… I think of it as an iceberg because the story that I share, or the story you read in the book is just at the top of a lot of research. Basically, both primary research in these 200 interviews where we’re looking for very — I worked with a research team at Stanford — we’re looking for patterns across how all these people work and think, so that we can boil that down into key insights and methods that each chapter is built around.

But then it’s also on top of all the innovation and creativity and psychology, neuroscience research that we could find that was relevant to this topic, as well. For example, there’s this belief that you can be more able to go through setbacks and failures if you change your mindset.

Well, we scoured the psychology research to understand, "Well, what does that mean exactly? How does somebody become more comfortable putting themselves out there night after night like Chris Rock does?" It turns out there’s this cutting edge research that has been developed by Dr. Carol Dweck who is a professor at Stanford. She talks about how people can develop what she calls a "growth mindset." That is the sense that intelligence or ability can be grown through effort over time.

We found that to be a pattern that we saw in the innovators whether it was Frank Gehry or Chris Rock or Jeff Bezos; they all had a growth mindset. Then when we looked at Dweck’s research and all the research she was building on, the consensus was that this is extremely tight research.

Therefore, we said, "OK. Let’s put a chapter in the book on this idea of how one can develop a growth mindset." So it applies to anyone. You just need to, as Dweck says, you need to be able to put yourself out there, though, in order to become more comfortable with setbacks and failure and basically it just gets easier and easier over time, as you see from your experience, as you’re able to grow through putting more effort into whatever you’re doing.

Whether it’s Lean or just developing ideas with rough prototypes, it’s just over time the research shows that you can develop a much stronger growth mindset. So that becomes a chapter in the book. That’s just one example.


Related Podcast and Transcription: Iterative Cycles Viewed as Little Bets

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