Data Won the U.S. Election. Now Can It Save the World?

31. May 2013

Date: 31-05-2013
Source: Technology Review

Data scientist Rayid Ghani helped persuade voters to reëlect President Obama. Now he’s using big data to create a groundswell of social good.

WHY IT MATTERS: Big data hasn’t been widely applied to social needs like raising funds for charity.

Data science and personal information are converging to shape the Internet’s most powerful and surprising consumer products.

As chief scientist for President Obama’s reëlection effort, Rayid Ghani helped revolutionize the use of data in politics. During the final 18 months of the campaign, he joined a sprawling team of data and software experts who sifted, collated, and combined dozens of pieces of information on each registered U.S. voter to discover patterns that let them target fund-raising appeals and ads.

Now, with Obama again ensconced in the Oval Office, some veterans of the campaign’s data squad are applying lessons from the campaign to tackle social issues such as education and environmental stewardship. Edgeflip, a startup Ghani founded in January with two other campaign members, plans to turn the ad hoc data analysis tools developed for Obama for America into software that can make nonprofits more effective at raising money and recruiting volunteers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Boomerang bosses

31. May 2013

Date: 30-05-2013
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

When retired chiefs make a comeback their return is often less than triumphant

IT SOMETIMES seems as if there is nothing but second acts in American lives. Bill Clinton has had more comebacks than Elvis, most recently as a global statesman. Mark Sanford has just got himself elected as a Republican congressman for South Carolina even though his governorship of the same state was consumed in a fireball of adultery and divorce. Donald Rumsfeld is resuming his career as a management guru, with a new edition of “Rumsfeld’s Rules”, having previously put in two innings at the Pentagon. And it is not just in American life. Shinzo Abe is having his second go at being prime minister of Japan, and Nawaz Sharif his third in Pakistan. José Mourinho is set to return to manage Chelsea football club after a six-year absence.

And two prominent second acts began recently in the American corporate boardroom. On April 8th J.C. Penney, a department-store chain, sacked its chief executive, Ron Johnson, after just 17 months and brought back his predecessor, Myron “Mike” Ullman. Then on May 23rd Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest maker of household products, sacked its boss, Bob McDonald, replacing him with his predecessor, A.G. Lafley. This sort of thing is surprisingly common: in “The Market for Comeback CEOs”, Rüdiger Fahlenbrach, then at Ohio State University, studied 275 publicly traded American firms whose CEOs had stayed on the board after retirement and were still around when the company again needed a new CEO. About a quarter rehired the old one instead. Read the rest of this entry »


In a Data Deluge, Companies Seek to Fill a New Role: “DATA SCIENTIST”

28. May 2013

Date: 28-05-2013

  Source: Technology Review 

A job invented in Silicon Valley is going mainstream as more industries try to gain an edge from big data. 

WHY IT MATTERS: Communications, computing, and biomedical advances are spurring an explosion of data. How companies use it could determine their own survival. 

Data science and personal information are converging to shape the Internet’s most powerful and surprising consumer products. 

The job description “data scientist” didn’t exist five years ago. No one advertised for an expert in data science, and you couldn’t go to school to specialize in the field. Today, companies are fighting to recruit these specialists, courses on how to become one are popping up at many universities, and the Harvard Business Review even proclaimed that data scientist is the “sexiest” job of the 21st century. 

Data scientists take huge amounts of data and attempt to pull useful information out. The job combines statistics and programming to identify sometimes subtle factors that can have a big impact on a company’s bottom line, from whether a person will click on a certain type of ad to whether a new chemical will be toxic in the human body.  Read the rest of this entry »


The age of smart machines

25. May 2013

Date: 23-05-2013
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

Brain work may be going the way of manual work

IN HIS first novel, “Player Piano” (1952), Kurt Vonnegut foresaw that industry might one day resemble a “stupendous Rube Goldberg machine” (or as Brits would say, a Heath Robinson contraption). His story describes a dystopia in which machines have taken over brain work as well as manual work, and a giant computer, EPICAC XIV, makes all the decisions. A few managers and engineers are still employed to tend their new masters. But most people live in homesteads where they spend their time doing make-work jobs, watching television and “breeding like rabbits”.

It is impossible to read “Player Piano” today without wondering whether Vonnegut’s stupendous machine is being assembled before our eyes. Google has designed self-driving cars. America’s military-security complex has pioneered self-flying killing machines. Educational entrepreneurs are putting enlightenment online. Are we increasingly living in Vonnegut’s dystopia? Or are the techno-enthusiasts right to argue that life is about to get a lot better?

Two things are clear. The first is that smart machines are evolving at breakneck speed. Moore’s law—that the computing power available for a given price doubles about every 18 months—continues to apply. This power is leaping from desktops into people’s pockets. More than 1.1 billion people own smartphones and tablets. Manufacturers are putting smart sensors into all sorts of products. The second is that intelligent machines have reached a new social frontier: knowledge workers are now in the eye of the storm, much as stocking-weavers were in the days of Ned Ludd, the original Luddite. Bank clerks and travel agents have already been consigned to the dustbin by the thousand; teachers, researchers and writers are next. The question is whether the creation will be worth the destruction. Read the rest of this entry »


Leaders everywhere: A conversation with Gary Hamel

21. May 2013

McKThe management writer and academic explains why he believes companies that empower and train people at all levels to lead can create competitive advantage.

May 2013

Hamel ccThe latest M-Prize challenge, cosponsored by Gary Hamel’s Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), Harvard Business Review, and McKinsey, asks managers to submit examples of how their organizations are empowering and training individuals to lead even when they lack formal authority. In this video, Professor Hamel discusses why he believes it is vital for companies to “syndicate the work of leadership” across the organization, to redistribute power, and to change the role of the top team. This interview was conducted by McKinsey Publishing’s Simon London. What follows is an edited transcript of Hamel’s remarks.

To learn more about the Leaders Everywhere challenge, please visit the Management Innovation eXchange Web site.

Interview transcript

Syndicating the work of leadership

The Management Innovation eXchange is the world’s first open-innovation platform, where we’re trying to elicit bleeding-edge practices in the world of management and organization and leadership. Every so often, we run a McKinsey–Harvard Business Review management prize (M-Prize) to pull those amazing new practices and those bleeding-edge ideas up to the surface.

This time around, the challenge is what we call Leaders Everywhere. And the thought underneath this is that we live in a world where never before has leadership been so necessary but where so often leaders seem to come up short. Our sense is that this is not really a problem of individuals; this is a problem of organizational structures—those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else.

So here we are in a world of amazing complexity and complex organizations that just require too much from those few people up top. They don’t have the intellectual diversity, the bandwidth, the time to really make all these critical decisions. There’s a reason that, so often in organizations, change is belated, it is infrequent, it is convulsive. Read the rest of this entry »


Intel Fuels a Rebellion Around Your Data

20. May 2013

Date: 20-05-2013
Source: Technology Review

The world’s largest chip maker wants to see a new kind of economy bloom around personal data. 

Why It Matters: The economic importance of personal information has outstripped the legislation that governs it.

Data science and personal information are converging to shape the Internet’s most powerful and surprising consumer products.

Intel is a $53-billion-a-year company that enjoys a near monopoly on the computer chips that go into PCs. But when it comes to the data underlying big companies like Facebook and Google, it says it wants to “return power to the people.”

Intel Labs, the company’s R&D arm, is launching an initiative around what it calls the “data economy”—how consumers might capture more of the value of their personal information, like digital records of their their location or work history. To make this possible, Intel is funding hackathons to urge developers to explore novel uses of personal data. It has also paid for a rebellious-sounding website called We the Data, featuring raised fists and stories comparing Facebook to Exxon Mobil.

Intel’s effort to stir a debate around “your data” is just one example of how some companies—and society more broadly—are grappling with a basic economic asymmetry of the big data age: they’ve got the data, and we don’t. Read the rest of this entry »


Management consulting: To the brainy, the spoils

16. May 2013

Date: 16-05-2013
Source: The Economist

As the world grows more confusing, demand for clever consultants is booming

ELITE management consultancies shun the spotlight. They hardly advertise: everyone who might hire them already knows their names. The Manhattan office that houses McKinsey & Company does not trumpet the fact in its lobby. At Bain & Company’s recent partner meeting at a Maryland hotel, signs and name-tags carried a discreet logo, but no mention of Bain. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which announced growing revenues in a quiet press release in April, counts as the braggart of the bunch.
Strategy consulting firms
Consultants have a lot to smile about (see table). The leading three strategy consultancies have seen years of double-digit growth despite global economic gloom. In 2011, the last year for which Kennedy Information, a consulting-research group, has comparable revenue numbers, Bain grew by 17.3%, BCG by 14.5% and McKinsey by 12.4%. All three are opening new offices.

Big trends that befuddle clients mean big money for clever consultants. Barack Obama’s gazillion-page health reform has boosted health-care consulting; firms would rather pay up than read the blasted thing. The Dodd-Frank financial reform has done the same for financial-sector work. Energy and technology are hot, too.

Companies are reluctant to talk about their use of consultants, and consultancies are relentlessly tight-lipped. Bain is said to use code-names for clients even in internal discussions. Such secrecy makes this a hard industry to analyse.

It also lets stereotypes flourish. McKinseyites are said to be “vainies” (who come and lecture clients on the McKinsey way). BCG people are “brainies” (who spout academic theory). And the “Bainies” have a reputation for throwing bodies at delivering quick bottom-line results for clients.

In fact, the big three all learn from each other. All three now use their alumni networks to gather intelligence and generate business—something McKinsey is famous for. All three stake some of their fees on the success of their projects, a practice once associated with Bain. And all three show off their big ideas to the wider public, as BCG’s founder was once among the few to do. Read the rest of this entry »