In this episode, I continue the series on leadership lessons from U.S. presidents in discussing James Monroe Virginia, who was President from 1817 to 1825. He is probably best known today for the Monroe Doctrine which was not his idea and was not known by that name until the 1850s. The life, times and Presidency of James Monroe provide many lessons for today’s business leader. I hope that you can draw inspiration and some insight from them.
In today’s episode we consider an eBook, entitled “Planning for Big Data - A CIO’s Handbook to the Changing Data Landscape”, by the O’Reilly Radar Team, featured a chapter by Alistair Croll, entitled “The Feedback Economy” which informs today’s discussion. Croll believes that big data will allow continuous improvement through the “feedback economy”. This is a step beyond the information economy because you are using the information that you have generated and collected as a source of information to guide you going forward. Information itself is not the greatest advantage but using that information to make your business more agile, efficient and profitable is.
Croll draws on military theory to illustrate his concept of a feedback loop. It is the OODA loop, which stands for observe, orient, decide and act. This comes from military strategist John Boyd who realized that combat “consisted of observing your circumstances, orienting yourself to your enemy’s way of thinking and your environment, deciding on a course of action and then acting on it.” Croll believes that the success of OODA is in large part “the fact it’s a loop” so that the results of “earlier actions feedback into later, hopefully wiser, ones.” This should allow combatants to “get inside their opponent’s loop, outsmarting and outmaneuvering them” because the system itself learns. For the business leader this means that if your company is able to collect and analyze information better and you can act on that information faster.
Croll believes one of the greatest impediments to using this OODA feedback loop is the surplus of noise in our data; that “We need to capture and analyze it well, separating the digital wheat from the digital chaff, identifying meaningful undercurrents while ignoring meaningless flotsam. To do this we need to move to more robust system to put the data into a more usable format.” Croll moves through each of the steps in how a company collects, analyzes and acts on data.
The first step is data collection where the challenge is both the sheer amount of data coming in and its size. Once the data comes in it must be ingested and cleaned. If it comes into your organization in an unstructured format, you will need to cut it up and put into the correct database format for use. Croll touches on the storage component of where you place the data, whether in servers or on the cloud.
A key insight from Croll is the issue of platforms, which are the frameworks used to crunch large amounts of data more quickly. His key insight is to break up the data “into chunks that can be analyzed in parallel” so the data can be considered and acted upon more quickly. Another technique he considers is “to build a pipeline of processing steps, each optimized for a particular task.”
Another important component is machine learning and its importance in the data supply chain. Croll observes, “we’re trying to find signal within the noise, to discern patterns. Humans can’t find signal well by themselves. Just as astronomers use algorithms to scan the night’s sky for signals, then verify any promising anomalies themselves, so too can data analysts use machines to find interesting dimensions, groupings or patterns within the data. Machines can work at a lower signal-to-noise ratio than people.”
Yet Croll correctly notes that as important as machine learning is in big data collection and analysis, there is “no substitute for human eyes and ears.” Yet for many business leaders, displaying the data is most difficult because it is not generally in a readable form. It is important to portray the data in more visual style to help convey the “dozens of independent data sources” into navigable 3D environments.
Of course having all this data is of zero use unless you act on it. Big data can be used in a wide variety of decision making, from employment decisions around hiring and firing decision, to strategic planning, to risk management and compliance programs. But it does take a shift in compliance thinking to use such data. It advocates “fast, iterative learning.” Big data allows you to make a quicker assessment of the impact of measured risks.
Croll ends his chapter by noting that the “big data supply chain is the organizational OODA loop.” But unlike the OODA loop, it is more than simply about the loop and plugging information as you move through it. He believes “big data is mostly about feedback”; that is, obtaining the impact of the risks you have accepted. For this to work in compliance, a company’s compliance discipline needs to both understand and “choose a course of action based upon the results, then observe what happens and use that information to collect new data or analyze things in a different way. It’s a process of continuous optimization”.
Whether you consider the OODA loop or the big data supply chain feedback, this process, coupled with the data that is available to you should facilitate a more agile and directed business. The feedback components in both processes allow you to make adjustments literally on the fly. If that does not meet the definition of continuous improvement, I do not know what does.
In this episode, I visit with Margaret Johnson, the author of the book from From SOS to WOW. This book can help you to move your leadership skills to a new level through by helping you bust through assumptions, unleashing your creative ideas and taking courageous action to finally make the move to where you really want to be personally or professionally. Johnson is a long-time business leadership coach who shares some of the techniques she uses to help folks achieve greater results in business and in life.
We discuss her growing up and college years in Michigan why she got to Texas as quickly as you could. She details her professional career in the energy and power industries and how that work prepare you for your current career. She then talks about what led her to write her book and how it can be used by a person to help achieve personal and professional goals.
You can find the book on Amazon.com by clicking here.
You can find out more about Margaret Johnson by checking out her website, ideasandbeyond.com.
In this episode, Richard Lummis and I explore leadership lessons from Toussaint Louverture, who held the only successful slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere. Our remarks are based on the recent biography of him entitled, Toussaint Louverture by Phillipe Gerrard. While not an obvious character for study in a business leadership podcast, Louverture nonetheless presented several important lessons which translate into to today’s business environment.
In this episode, I consider the leadership lessons which can be drawn from our 7th President Andrew Jackson. I focus largely on the crisis surrounding the charter of the Second National Bank of the United States, which played out over 5 years from 1831 to 1836. This conflict pitted Jackson against most the nation’s political and financial elites, most prominently Nicolas Biddle, the President of the Bank. However, the great politicians of the day, including Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were lined up against President Jackson as well.
The crisis came to a head in the summer of 1832 when both the House and Senate passed a bill renewing the Charter of the Second Bank of the US early. Not only did Jackson veto the bill and give one of the most memorable veto addresses of any President, he then took on Biddle directly by removing first removing persons in the administration and government who were pro-Bank and pro-Biddle. In the coup de grace for the Bank, Jackson the gold species from the Bank and moving into state banks across the country. Jackson won the battle completely. His actions were not without negative consequence as the distribution of the species across the country led to rampant inflation and the Panic of 1837. However, by that time, Jackson had departed the Presidency and the fallout was left to his successor Martin Van Buren.
In an article entitled, 12 Leadership Qualities of An Often-Overlooked President, Matt Myatt, writing in forbes.com online reviewed the leadership qualities of John Adams as laid out in David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography, appropriately entitled John Adams. Adams presidency was glossed over with little more than a brief mention, most probably because he was President between two of our more memorable presidents – Washington and Jefferson. Samuel Eliot Morrison once said that history teaches us how to behave and Adams provides a great example on it. The following list contains 12 qualities that made him a great man and a great leader: