Big Data won’t solve your problem (or maybe it will)

h2C574636I just finished reading “Can big data technology be used to replace creative marketing?” and felt the need to vent a bit.

This first part of this vent:

I’m not real sure what the reason for that article was…it kind of bounced around a bit.   Apologies to the author but I was confused reading it and don’t really think the author even addressed his own question. Of course, he DID get me to link to it. Link Bait: 1, Eric: 0.

My second – and most important – part of this vemt:

I’m tired of reading about how big data can solve all the problems of the world.  Big Data is an approach to help solve problems, yes…but it isn’t some magical approach that will make everything else obsolete and worthless.

I’m a fan of Big Data. I’m a fan of taking an analytical and data driven approach to business, but saying that Big Data can replace anything other than old Business Intelligence models and mindsets is just plain wrong.

To answer the question of Can big data technology be used to replace creative marketing?, no…it can’t and it won’t. In fact, Big Data actually makes the creativity and critical thinking even more important than it was in the past.  At some point in the near future, Big Data is going to be standard practice for business and the organizations that find a way to use data creatively are going to be the organizations that are going to be the leaders.

Big Data is a way to find answers and solve problems, its not the answer itself.

 

 

Is Creativity & Innovation enough?

I just finished reading Chase Jarvis‘ post titled “Creativity alone is not enough“.

In this article, Chase argues that Creativity isn’t enough for people working in the creative world (photographers, designers, etc).  Jarvis argues that creative folks need to embrace other mindsets (such as being different, brilliant and innovative) to be successful. According to Jarvis, The key to success in the future for creatives is innovative thinking.

But what is innovation?

To me, Innovation is ‘creating something new’. This ‘newness’ can be built upon something old, but it is a new implementation of the old that is innovative.

Jarvis describes it this way:

it’s hard to say what innovation is. But if I can’t say exactly what it is, I most certainly know what it is not. It doesn’t look or sound at all like the status quo.

Excellent.

Innovation is not the status quo.

The act of innovating is the act of moving away from the status quo.

Then why is there so much status quo around if innovation is the buzzword of the last few years?

I can’t really say….some people blame the recession.  Me?  I blame organizations.  I blame the herd mentality that exists in most organizations today that doesn’t allow individuals’s ideas and creativity to flow.

Sure there are those companies that are innovative and creative (think Apple and Google) but why can we only think of a handful of ‘innovative’ companies (Fast Company lists the Fast 50 – the 50 most innovative companies).    50 out of how many thousands and thousands of companies in this world?

Why so little true innovation?  Is it because it’s hard?  Maybe.  Is it because innovation is risky? Perhaps.

But…from my experience, innovation is difficult because people don’t realize that the status quo (i.e., what you are doing today) isn’t enough to keep you where you are or get you where you want to be.

So…Is Creativity & Innovation enough?

Nope.

You’ve got to add a little chutzpa (four year of blogging and I FINALLY got to use that word!). Take some risk. Do something bold and daring.

I’ve been hearing the cliche ‘move the needle‘ an awful lot around the workplace lately.   Every project is measured against whether it will ‘move the needle’ or not. Although no guidance is given on what that needle is measuring. I can move the needle all day long with small un-risky projects that don’t do anything to change the status quo.  Or…I can break the damn needle off and move the organization. Which do you want to do?  Move the needle…or move the organization?

With a little creativity and innovative thinking added to a little sprinkling of courage, you’ll make a positive and lasting change in your life, organization and in this world.

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Book Review: The Element

I just finished reading The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything and have to say that I really enjoyed it.

While the book spends a little too much time in the realm of ‘celebrity worship’ (i.e., there are LOT of celebrities that have found ‘the element’ apparently), the book is still a very good read.

The basic premise is that every person has their own ‘Element’ that they fit the best into.  What is the element?  Basically, the Element is the location where a person’s passion, interests and natural abilities intersect.

The Element is something that a person has to find for themselves. Schools can’t teach a child to find their element.  In fact, many schools and parents do the opposite…they try to drive children into the ‘safe’ areas for careers and educational study.

The book contains a lot of stories of people that have found their ‘Element’.  Many of these stories are of people who’ve gone against the ‘normal’ educational route to become their own person.

That said, this book does not slam modern education and teachers. From all accounts, Sir Ken Robinson is very much pro-education and pro-teacher.  What the book does do well is provide examples and discussion around the current state of educational theory and what it is doing wrong.

What is current education theory and practice doing wrong?  Easy…we are teaching everyone the same thing and using standardized testing to examine what has been learned.  In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than killing the creativity of a child by forcing them to fit into an educational and cultural mold.

The book is an easy read and highly recommended to anyone interested in the ideas of creativity and passion and educational ideas.

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Links for June 7 2009

What is Innovation Management? by Hutch Carpenter on I’m Not Actually a Geek

Why underdogs should take more chances by Matt on Signal vs. Noise

Starting a Movement, Learning to Lead by Julia Kirby on HarvardBusiness.org

Lose Your Mind and Release Your Creativity by Harry on Men With Pens

Four Customer Experience Lessons from Target’s ClearRx by Peter Merholz on HarvardBusiness.org

Authenticity and Risk by Jamie Notter on Get Me Jamie Notter

Find the IT Innovator Within by Susan Cramm on HarvardBusiness.org

Why IS it so hard to be human? by Amber Naslund on Altitude Branding

Audience or Community by Chris Brogan on chrisbrogan.com

Six Thinking Hats And Project Management by Bas de Baar on Project Shrink

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Creative Thinking or Lateral Thinking?

Mark McGuinness over at Lateral Action has a great post titled “Is Lateral Thinking Necessary for Creativity?“…this post is a well thought out argument against the idea that lateral thinking is required for creativity. I won’t go into the details of Mark’s post but I wanted to highlight this passage:

He [Robert Weisberg] argues that the creative process takes place via a process of logical thinking, trial and error, feedback and reflection – all of which involves ‘ordinary thought processes’ rather than lateral thinking

Emphasis mine.

The concept of ‘lateral thinking’ was defined by Edward De Bono in 1967 and is rather difficult to get a formal definition for.  If you jump over to google and search for ‘lateral thinking‘, you’ll see many many definitions…all a bit different. Regardless of the formal definition, the idea of lateral thinking is that a person must change their perspective and ‘think differently’ to be creative.

lateral thinkingBack in January 2007, I wrote a post titled ‘The Problem(s) with Linear Thinking” where I highlight the issues with people falling into the linear thinking trap.  In this post, I talk about ‘lateral thinking’ when it comes to hiring people and thinking creatively. When I look back on that post, my real meaning of ‘lateral thinking’ was really ‘think differently’. In other words, try to think differently than you normally would.  This is the basic concept behind lateral thinking.

Now…back to my original question…Does creative thinking require lateral thinking?

Ready for my answer? I don’t think it really matters. Lateral, linear, creative or vertical…should I care?  The academic in me does care (which is why I liked Mark’s post)…but the realist knows that these are just words to many people.   Most people and organizations just want to get their problems solved and figure out a way to be innovative.

How can you do this without studying some of these academic theories?  All you have to do is think differently.  Approach the problem from different directions.  If this is called lateral thinking…great.  If its called creative thinking….awesome.

Looking back a few paragraphs, you’ll see Weisberg’s ideas that the creative process occurs via logical thinking along with some trial and error and reflection….all great ideas and probably more correct and more provable than De Bono’s.  That said, at the end of the day, you’ve got to do the basics.

Throw the words to the side and do what it takes to solve your problems.  If De Bono’s lateral thinking methods work for you, use them.  If Weisberg’s ideas on creativity work for you, more power to ya.

The thing to be careful of is allowing yourself to fall into the trap of thinking like you did yesterday. Problems today are different than problems yesterday.  Let yourself out of the box (or get back into the box if you’ve been out a while) and find the solution that fits your problem today.  That solution will be different tomorrow.