Big Data Is Opening Doors, but Maybe Too Many

24. March 2013

Date: 24-03-2013
Source: The New York Times

IN the 1960s, mainframe computers posed a significant technological challenge to common notions of privacy. That’s when the federal government started putting tax returns into those giant machines, and consumer credit bureaus began building databases containing the personal financial information of millions of Americans. Many people feared that the new computerized databanks would be put in the service of an intrusive corporate or government Big Brother.

“It really freaked people out,” says Daniel J. Weitzner, a former senior Internet policy official in the Obama administration. “The people who cared about privacy were every bit as worried as we are now.”

Along with fueling privacy concerns, of course, the mainframes helped prompt the growth and innovation that we have come to associate with the computer age. Today, many experts predict that the next wave will be driven by technologies that fly under the banner of Big Data — data including Web pages, browsing habits, sensor signals, smartphone location trails and genomic information, combined with clever software to make sense of it all.

Proponents of this new technology say it is allowing us to see and measure things as never before — much as the microscope allowed scientists to examine the mysteries of life at the cellular level. Big Data, they say, will open the door to making smarter decisions in every field from business and biology to public health and energy conservation.

“This data is a new asset,” says Alex Pentland, a computational social scientist and director of the Human Dynamics Lab at the M.I.T. “You want it to be liquid and to be used.”

But the latest leaps in data collection are raising new concern about infringements on privacy — an issue so crucial that it could trump all others and upset the Big Data bandwagon. Dr. Pentland is a champion of the Big Data vision and believes the future will be a data-driven society. Yet the surveillance possibilities of the technology, he acknowledges, could leave George Orwell in the dust. Read the rest of this entry »


Ein neuer Papst – und die falschen Anforderungskriterien?

12. March 2013

von Helmut F. Karner, am Tag des Beginns des Konklaves (12/3) A_524-01-215

Gott sei Dank heisst es ja, der Heilige Geist hätte bereits den richtigen Papst gewählt, die 115 Kardinäle müssten nur noch herausfinden, wer es sei.

Das kann man nur hoffen (tat er es auch das letzte Mal?), denn der Dilettantismus, mit dem die grösste Organisation der Erde mit ihrer wichtigsten Personalentscheidung umgeht, ist nur mit Liederlichkeit zu beschreiben.

Wie würde eine professionelle Organisation damit umgehen:

  1. Eine genaue Zustandsanalyse erstellen, wohl ein bisschen länger als die Meetings der Kardinäle der vergangenen Woche
  2. Ein präzises Anforderungsprofil erarbeiten, in dem die Lösungsfähigkeit des jetzigen (unerträglichen) Zustandes angesprochen wird, zusammen mit den Kriterien Alter, Herkunft, Persönlichkeit, Charismen/Talente, Entwicklungsfähigkeit, fachliche und Managementqualifikationen
  3. Scouting, Scouting, Scouting. Warum macht das der CF Barcelona so, Bayern München, jeder bessere Konzern, die Kirche aber nicht? Ein neuer Papst muss ja kirchenrechtlich nach überhaupt nicht Kardinal sein, daher hätte man auch ernsthaft außerhalb der 115 suchen müssen. Dazu ist es wohl jetzt zu spät. Hätte man das mit den Anforderungskriterien des Alters z.B. ernst gemeint, dann gibt es wohl unter den im Konklave Vertretenen wohl nur 2-3 mögliche Kandidaten.
  4. Wenn wir heute für ein Unternehmen eine exekutive Führungskraft suchen, dann zählt in der Gewichtung:
    • 40% Leadership-Fähigkeiten, also eindeutig das Wichtigste. “A leader is someone who has inspired and energized followers”. Es gibt “Transformational Leadership” (im jetzigen Zustand der Kirche wohl wichtig – a la Johannes XXIII), aber auch “Transactional Leadership” (wie Mutter Theresa, ein rezenter Papst fällt mir dazu nicht ein – ausser vielleicht der frühe Wojtyla!). Und es gibt oft Menschen an der Spitze, die überhaupt keine Leadership Fähigkeit haben (dazu fallen mir wieder ein paar rezente Päpste ein!) “Leadership is to take people from where they are to where they have not been before!”
      Was unterscheidet übrigens “Great” Leaders von “Good” Leaders? Die Grossen haben noch zwei zusätzliche Eigenschaften: Demut/Bescheidenheit  und Konsequenz/Durchhaltevermögen! Read the rest of this entry »

Executive heads hunted by new tribes

5. March 2013

Date: 05-03-2013
Source: The Financial Times

The obvious threats are the crowd and the cloud

In Jo Nesbo’s thriller Headhunters, “king of the heap” search consultant Roger Brown has to fund his extravagant lifestyle by stealing art from the walls of candidates’ homes while his colleagues are interviewing them.

Real-life headhunters are also diversifying. Heidrick & Struggles, seeking to offset falling revenue and volumes in its search business, recently bought Senn Delaney, a “culture-shaping” consultancy. Heidrick’s US rival Spencer Stuart offers “board counsel” and executive assessment alongside search. Egon Zehnder, which in the 1960s pioneered the business in Europe, also sells advice to family businesses and newly hired CEOs. I also detect a surge in self-justifying comments from search consultants, the sort that begin: “There will always be a role for face-to-face advice?.?.?.”

Sound the disintermediation klaxon! Technological tools, new rivals and structural change have swallowed travel agents, insurance brokers and brick-and-mortar retailers. Executive search is next. Read the rest of this entry »


Data from social networks are making social science more scientific

1. March 2013

Date: 27-02-2013

Source: The Economist

Social science: Dr Seldon, I presume

“FOUNDATION”, a novel by Isaac Asimov from the golden age of science fiction, imagines a science called psychohistory which enables its practitioners to predict precisely the behaviour of large groups of people. The inventor of psychohistory, Hari Seldon, uses his discovery to save humanity from an historical dark age.

A fantasy, of course. But the rise of mobile phones and social networks means budding psychohistorians do now have an enormous amount of data that they can search for information which might yield more modest patterns of predictability. And, as several of them told the AAAS meeting, they are doing just that.

Song Chaoming, for instance, is a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston. He is a physicist, but he moonlights as a social scientist. With that hat on he has devised an algorithm which can look at someone’s mobile-phone records and predict with an average of 93% accuracy where that person is at any moment of any day. Given most people’s regular habits (sleep, commute, work, commute, sleep), this might not seem too hard. What is impressive is that his accuracy was never lower than 80% for any of the 50,000 people he looked at. Read the rest of this entry »