10 Reasons Why Every Leader Should be Data Literate

Analytics-Anywhere

With the rapid advances in technology, computing power, the rise of the Data Scientist, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and the lure of being able to gain insights and meaning from the wealth of data all more possible now than ever before, “Data Literacy” for leaders and managers, within organizations is now needed.

Here are 10 reasons why every leader needs to become Data Literate:

To assist in developing a Data-Driven Culture
Especially applicable to companies that are either not using data yet to power their decision-making, or are at best, on the early part of their data journey.

Quite often a shift in the culture of the company is needed, a change in the way the company is used to working.

To do this efficiently and effectively, if you as a leader are data literate, then it will make the process of becoming “data-driven”, a lot smoother.

To help drill for Data
“Data is the new Oil” (Clive Humby, UK Mathematician).

In the last 2 years alone, over 90 percent of the data in the world was generated (Forbes.com), and 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are being produced each day!

Structured and Unstructured data, text files, images, video’s, documents, data is everywhere.

Being data literate will enable you to take advantage of it, to know where to look in your domain of expertise.

To assist in building a slick, efficient team
Data Scientists, Data Engineers, Machine Learning Engineers, Data Developers, Data Architects, whatever the job title, all are needed to take advantage of data in an organization.

Be data literate and be able to identify the key personnel you need to exploit the knowledge and insights quickly and efficiently.

To ensure compliance with Data Security, Privacy, Governance.
Recent events have meant the focus is now very much on how data is managed and secured, that people’s privacy is protected and respected.

Recent legislation such as GDPR has only added to the importance of this. Literacy with data will enable a full appreciation of how to ensure these issues and concerns are fully addressed and adhered to

To help ensure the correct tools and technology are available
We now live in a fast-paced world, where technology is changing at a rapid rate, where new advances are frequent, new tools, new software.

Part of data literacy is not necessarily being an expert in this area, but being aware of what is available, what is possible, and what is coming.

Having this view, enables your company, your team to be well positioned to use the relevant technology.

To help “spread the word” and form good habits
A good, data literate manager, when presented with an opinion or judgment from a team member, will not take it at face value but will ask them to provide the data to back it up.

This can only help in promoting the use of data and also towards achieving that data-driven culture we discussed previously.

A phrase often used in football coaching, is “practice makes permanent”.

Being constantly asked to back up your opinions with data, by the managers in an organization, will create a habit, and soon everyone will be utilizing the data

To help ensure the right questions are asked of the data
Knowing your data and what is available where in your organization, can only assist in ensuring that the correct questions are being asked of the data, in order to achieve the most beneficial insights possible.

To help gain a competitive advantage
Companies that leverage their data the best, and utilize the insights gained from it, will ultimately gain an advantage over their competitors.

Data Literacy within Leaders is a bare minimum if you want to achieve this.

To gain respect and credence from your team and fellow professionals
Being knowledgeable and appreciative of all things data, will only help in gaining the trust and respect from your fellow team members and others within your organization, and indeed your industry.

In order to survive in the future world of work
The workplace is only going one way, in this digital, data-driven age. Do not become data illiterate, and risk being left behind.

Source: algorithmxlab.com

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What Is A Technology Adoption Curve?

Analytics-Anywhere

The Five Stages Of A Technology Adoption Life Cycle
In his book, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, Geoffrey A. Moore highlights a model that tries to dissect and represent the stages of adoption of high-tech products.

More precisely this model goes through five stages. Each of those stages (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggard) has a specific psychographic that makes that group ready to adopt a tech product.

Why is the technology adoption life cycle useful?
There is a peculiar phase in the life cycle of a high-tech product that Moore calls a “chasm.” This is the phase in which a product is getting used by early adopters, but not yet by an early majority.

In that stage, there is a wide gap between those two psychographic profiles. Indeed, many startups fail because they don’t manage to have the early majority pick up where the early adopters left.

Understanding the technology adoption of a product helps you assess in which stage is a product and when the chasm is close how to fill the gap and allow the early majority to pick up the void left by the early adopters.

That void is created when the early adopters are ready to leave a product which is about to go mainstream. The market is plenty of examples of companies trying to conquer the early majority but failed in doing so, and in the process also lost the enthusiasts that made that product successful in the first place.

What are the stages of a technology adoption life cycle?
The stages of a technology adoption life cycle, it comprises five main psychographic profiles:

  • Innovators
  • Early Adopters
  • Early Majority
  • Late Majority
  • and Laggards

Innovators
Innovators are the first to take action and adopt a product, even though that might be buggy. Those people are willing to take the risk, and those will be the people ready to help you shape your product when that is not perfect.
As they’re in love with the innovative aspect behind it, they are ready to sustain that. This psychographic profile is all about the innovation itself. As this is sort of a hobby for them, they are ready and willing to take the risk of using something that doesn’t work perfectly, but it has great potential.

Early Adopters
Early adopters are among those people ready to try out a product at an early stage. They don’t need you to explain why they should use that innovation.
The early adopter has already researched into it, and she is passionate about the innovation behind that, however, while the innovator will adopt the high-tech product for the sake of the innovation behind it.
The early adopter will make an informed buying decision. In that stage, even though the product is only appealing to a small niche of an early adopter, it’s great and ready.
Those early adopters feel different from the early majority. And if you “betray them” they might probably leave you right away. That is where the chasm stands.

Early majority
The early majority is the psychographic profile made of people that will help you “cross the chasm.” Getting traction means making a product appealing to the early majority. Indeed, the early majority is made of more conscious consumers, that look for useful solutions but also beware of possible fads.

Late Majority
The late majority kicks in only after a product is well established, have a more skeptical approach to technological innovation and feel more comfortable in the adoption only when a product has gone mainstream.

Laggards
Laggards are the last in the technology adoption cycle. While the late majority is skeptical of technological innovation, the laggard is adverse to it.
Thus, unless there is a clear, established an advantage in using a technology those people will hardly become adopters. For some reason, which might be tied to personal or economic aspects, those people are not looking to adopt a technology.

Other factors influencing technological adoption
One of my favorite authors is Jared Diamond, a polymath which knowledge goes beyond books, education or instruction. In fact, Jared Diamond is an ecologist, geographer, biologist, anthropologist.

Whatever you want to label him, the truth is Jared Diamond is just one of the most curious people on earth. As we love to put a label on anything, we get impressed by as many labels one person has.

However, Jared Diamond has been just a curious person looking for answers to compelling and hard questions about our civilization. The search for those answers has brought him to become an expert in many disciplines.

In fact, even though he might not know what’s the latest news about Google‘s algorithm update, Apple’s latest product launch or what features the new iPhone has, I believe Jared Diamond is the most equipped person to understand how the technological landscape evolves. Reason being Jared Diamond has been looking at historical trends in thousands of years and dozens of cultures and civilizations.

He’s also lived for short periods throughout his life with small populations, like New Guineans. In his book Guns, Germs & Steel there is an excerpt that tries to explain why western civilizations were so technologically successful and advanced compared to any other population in the world, say New Guinea.

For many in the modern, hyper-technological world, the answer seems trivial. With the advent of the digital world, even more. We love to read and get inspired every day by the incredible stories of geniuses and successful entrepreneurs that are changing the world.

Jared Diamond has a different explanation for how technology evolves and what influences its adoption throughout history, and it has only in part of doing with the ability to make something that works better than what existed before.

Why the heroic theory of invention is flawed
If you read the accounts of many entrepreneurs that have influenced our modern society, those seem to resemble the stories of heroes, geniuses, and original thinkers. In short, if we didn’t have Edison, Watt, Ford, and Carnegie the western world wouldn’t have been so wildly successful. For how much we love this theory, that doesn’t seem to resemble history.

True, those people were in a way ahead of their times. They were geniuses, risk takers and in some cases mavericks. However, were they the only ones able to advance our society? That is not the case.

Assuming those people were isolated geniuses able to come up with the unimaginable; if the culture around hadn’t been able to acknowledge those inventions, we wouldn’t have traces as of now of those discoveries. So what influenced technological adoption?

The four macro patterns of technological adoption
According to Jared Diamond, there are four patterns to look at when looking for technological adoption:

  1. a relative economical advantage with existing technology
  2. social value and prestige
  3. compatibility with vested interests
  4. the ease with which those advantages can be observed

Relative economic advantage with existing technology
The first point seems obvious. In fact, for one technology to win over the other doesn’t have just to be better; but way more effective. To think of a recent example, when Google took off the search industry. When Google got into the search industry, it was not the first player. It was a latecomer. Yet its algorithm, PageRank, was so superior to its competition that it quickly took off.

What’s next?

Social value and prestige
This is less intuitive. In fact, for how much we love to think of ourselves as rational creatures, in reality, we might be way more social than we’re rational. Thus, social value and prestige of a technological innovation play as much a key role in its adoption as its innovative aspects.

Think about Apple’s products. Apple follows a business model which can be defined as a razor and blade business model. In short, the company attracts users on its platform, iTunes or Apple Store by selling music or apps for a convenient price, while selling its iPhones at very high margins.

However, it is undeniable that what makes Apple able to sell its computers and phones at a higher price compared to competitors is the brand the company was able to build over the years. In short, as of the time of this writing, Apple still represents a status quo that makes the company highly profitable.

Compatibility with vested interests
In Jared Diamond‘s book, Germs, Guns & Steel to prove this point he uses the story of the QWERTY keyboard. This is the keyboard most probably you’re using right now on your mobile device or computer. It is called in this way because its first left-most six letters form the name “QWERTY.”

Have you ever wondered why do you use this standard? You might think this has to do with efficiency. But instead, that is the opposite. This standard has been invented at the end of the 1800s when typewriters became the standard.

When typists were typing too fast those (page 248 of Germs, Guns & Steel) typewriters jammed. In short, they came up with a system that was thought to slow down typists so that typewriters wouldn’t get jammed anymore. Yet as the more than a century went by and we started to use computers, and mobile devices instead of switching to a more efficient system we kept the old one. Why?

According to Jared Diamond, the most compelling reason for not being able to switch to a new standard was the vested interests of small lobbies of typists, typing teachers, typewriter and computer salespeople.

The ease with which those advantages can be observed
When a technological advancement can be easily recognized as the fruit of the success of an organization, country or enterprise, it will be adopted by anyone that wants to keep up with it. Think, for instance, about two countries going to war. One of them has a secret weapon that makes them win the war.

As soon as the enemy that lost the battle finds that out, next time that weapon will also be adopted by the losing side. Think also of another more recent example. As big data has become a secret technological weapon used by Obama to win his electoral campaign. So Trump has used it to take over his competitors during the last US political campaign.

Now that we know what are the four macro patterns of technological adoption and how the technology adoption curve might work it might be easier for you to cross the chasm!

Source: FourWeekMBA