How IBM builds an effective data science team

Data science is a team sport. This sentiment rings true not only with our experiences within IBM, but with our enterprise customers, who often ask us for advice on how to structure data science teams within their own organizations.

Before that can be done, however, it’s important to remember that the various skills required to execute a data science project are both rare and distinct. That means we need to make sure that each team member can focus on what he or she does best.

Consider this breakdown of a data science project, along with the skills required for each role:

Continue reading “How IBM builds an effective data science team”

Creating an app: “What, like it’s hard?”

Let’s just say it’s not as easy as the bend and snap.

Anyone who knows me knows that app development has never really been “my thing.” I (sadly) enjoy talking about the Kardashian-Jenner clan, and I love fashion and binge-watching rom-com movies such as “Legally Blonde.” Just as most people don’t wake up one morning and think, I think I’ll go to law school today, as Prof. Callahan speculated about “Legally Blonde” heroine Elle Woods, I am not the type who just wakes up one morning and thinks, I really want to learn how to make an app! Yet, being the the stereotype-defiers that Elle and I are, both of us decided to give new ventures a try — even if others may scoff. Continue reading “Creating an app: “What, like it’s hard?””

Innovation is Overrated: How Execution Can Make Up For an Average Idea

The tech media is obsessed with innovation. Front pages of sites like The Verge, Wired, or Fast Company tell us very clearly that innovation is all about cool, new ideas. Pragmatic iteration is overlooked as the boring rehashing of old things, while exciting ‘moonshots’ and 10X leaps are fetishised. However, the opposite is often true: the most successful companies in the world focus on nailing iterative execution, not constant reinvention. Continue reading “Innovation is Overrated: How Execution Can Make Up For an Average Idea”

What is a great Product Strategy, really?

If software is eating the world, fueled by data, then the product manager defines its course with a product strategy. But what is a great product strategy, really?

After having spent years building products, and recently led the buildup of one of the largest product & tech organizations in Norway, people often ask me what product management is and what defines a great product strategy.

Here is my beta-attempt to give clarity to the ambiguous case of product strategy. I know it has flaws and would love your input on how to improve it! Continue reading “What is a great Product Strategy, really?”

“More than blind trial and error”: Leveraging experimentation to shape the future

What happens when a traditional model no longer works? As Global Head of Strategy & Agency Business Development for Reuters, I’m in charge of identifying new avenues for our media business to pursue. That means I look for new ways to generate revenue and drive profitability beyond our short-term horizon, which entails exploring new areas and trying to bring untested ideas to fruition. Experimentation is a big part of my team’s mission. To rethink the way you can bring value, you must keep a sense of open-mindedness and be accepting of fresh ideas. Over time, I have learned that experimentation has to be more than blind trial and error. It has to be thoughtfully devised and strategically carried out. Here are several characteristics of an experimentation-focused outlook I’ve found have served me well: Continue reading ““More than blind trial and error”: Leveraging experimentation to shape the future”

You Can’t Change Fundamental Behaviors Without Changing Fundamental Beliefs

In 2006, Blockbuster Video launched Total Access, a service that allowed its customers to rent videos online and return them to stores. The strategy was an immediate hit with customers and before long its online unit was making big gains against Netflix. It seemed that the video giant had finally cracked to code to renting videos on the Internet.

Alas, it was not to be. Investors balked at the cost of the new plan, while franchisees feared that online rentals would make them obsolete. In 2007, the company’s CEO, John Antioco, was fired and the online strategy was scrapped. Just three years later, in 2010, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy.

Traditionally, we have looked at strategy solely as a set of plans designed to achieve specific goals. However, as we increasingly operate in a world of networks rather than hierarchies, leaders need to learn the lessons of social movements and focus on shared values. As the story of Blockbuster shows, you can’t change behaviors without first changing core beliefs. Continue reading “You Can’t Change Fundamental Behaviors Without Changing Fundamental Beliefs”

Innovation Isn’t About What You Control, But What You Can Access

Completed in 1928, Henry Ford’s River Rouge plant was a marvel of its age. It was almost 100% vertically integrated, even producing its own steel and by the 1930s over 100,000 employees worked there, producing nearly every component for the cars that Ford built. It was, at the time, considered to be a key advantage.

Nobody makes factories like that anymore though. It wouldn’t make any sense. In today’s economy, it would be impossible for any one firm to be competitive in more than a handful of the thousands of components that go into a modern automobile. That’s why today we have global supply chains.

All to often, we think of innovation as an problem of developing internal capabilities but in today’s world, far more value can be unlocked by widening and deepening connections. So we need to learn to use the entire ecosystem, including partners, suppliers, customers and open resources and think in terms of value networks rather than value chains. Continue reading “Innovation Isn’t About What You Control, But What You Can Access”

Thud: Why it’s not failure you should be afraid of – Jeff Patton

“Thud” is the sound a bowling ball makes when dropped onto damp earth. But it’s also the sound that most of our software makes when it hits the market. We’re great at celebrating our wild successes, and finding people to blame for catastrophic failures. This talk is about how we spend most of our work trying to figure out which we have on our hands: a success or a failure. Jeff will share stories of how we use discovery work to identify when we’ve got a “thud” on our hands. And, how the hardest thing to do is recognize and let go of our thuds. For more info about this talk with Jeff Patton see the meetup page.

Don’t Bet On Someone Else’s Success Story

Every bold new business idea starts with a success story. Either it is a single organization or an aggregate sample that implemented a particular strategy and achieved outstanding results. That solid track record helps to convince others to adopt it, yet somehow the new management fad fails to deliver as promised.

The problem is often one of survivorship bias. While it’s fairly easy to find an examples of those who were successful with a particular strategy, the ones who tried it and failed are often overlooked. Other times, a post hoc fallacy is at work. Just because someone implemented a particular strategy doesn’t mean that’s what led to success.

The truth is that a strategy can never be validated backward, only forward. The past is a very imperfect indicator for the future because circumstances are constantly in flux. Technology, competition and customer preferences change all the time, so whenever anybody tells us that they have come up with a sure-fire way to succeed, we need to be skeptical. Continue reading “Don’t Bet On Someone Else’s Success Story”

Develop Your Culture Like Software

Recently, I tried out a new talk at La Victoria Lab’s innovation festival in Lima where I covered an experiment we have been engaging in, somewhat by chance, at The New York Times: working on our culture like it was software. I’m not sure how the talk went over, but personally, I think we are onto something good and novel at The Times.

Nick Rockwell/The New York Times

The story I told at the FEST was about how my team and I have gone about trying to impact the tech culture at The New York Times. It should be obvious to my readers why we want to work on the culture: we want to be better — better environment, better capability, better talent, better decisions and better results. Focusing on the team is the leverage point for all of those things, and culture is the leverage point on the team. As I put it in my talk, the benevolent laziness of the software engineer led us straight to culture. Continue reading “Develop Your Culture Like Software”

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