The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: January 2015

The Opportunities in Big Data Still Ripe for Innovation

– Associate Editor, BostInno Tech

Big data is the “new currency” — an innovation that can boost or bust a business when not properly taken advantage of. Smart startups have been dipping into the deluge of data to draw out audience analytics, predict maintenance before costly breakdowns or better deliver targeted treatments to their consumers.

With innovation naturally comes a surge of yet-to-be explored opportunities other companies should have the foresight to capitalize on.

“More big data disruption is coming,” said Ryan Betts, CTO of Bedford-based VoltDB, in an email to BostInno. “And it will be around real-time, interactive experiences.”

The space is one VoltDB has been able to establish itself in, by providing an in-memory relational database that combines massive data ingest with real-time analytics and decisioning, so that organizations can act on data at its greatest point of value.

Betts pointed to big-name behemoths, such as Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, that are also establishing themselves in the space. He noted “unlimited Internet-attached storage space can be purchased at very cost competitive prices,” which, when combined with “ubiquitous computing,” are creating a network effect that’s become increasingly beneficial to consumers.

“In the same way that social networks become more powerful and offer greater utility as members join and build connections,” Betts explained, “these devices will connect to share data, to cooperate with one another and to interact with us in our environment.”

Betts menCloud-Computing-captioned Nest, a company reinventing the thermostat and smoke alarm by connecting to the Internet and syncing up to apps in a way that’s reinventing climate control. The collision Betts’ described is even more evident in individuals’ “smartphone on the coffee table” or “tablet a family member uses for Facebook.”

He added, “For the consumer, the automation and the disruptive potential of these devices communicating and interacting with one another will create relevant, micro-personalized experiences.”

To Atlas Venture Partner Chris Lynch, co-founder and board member of Kendall Square’s big data hackerspace hack/reduce, the future is, indeed, in “automation, simplification and integration.” Lynch broke each element down in an email to BostInno, saying:

Automation of the process of analyzing data, simplification of the user interface to allow non-data scientists to participate in the big data revolution and integration of next generation analytics into legacy applications people already know how to use.

Lynch acknowledged big data’s downfalls, adding, “Platform and tool companies are largely played out.”

His comment was reminiscent of that of Google Ventures’ Rich Miner, who, at Harvard Business School’s recent Cyberposium, argued, “Big data is a very overused word.” He added that big data is often “a layer, not a startup itself.” Yet, he had formerly singled out Nest for taking “mundane devices” and making it work on users’ behalf, noting there’s “a huge amount of innovation” in the connected devices space — which all circles back to big data.

“From a pure technology perspective, we need to deliver scale, security and simplicity,” Lynch said. “[We need to] make it easy for people to absorb the technology and increase the time to value.”

To Betts, the industry can see immense value from interconnections, as well. As he posited:

Interconnections will impact factory manufacturing plants; impact how predictive maintenance is scheduled and executed on high-end industrial equipment; create connected Internet services that must scale authorization and authentication, detect and prevent financial, telephone and even online-game fraud, and make construction sites better monitored, safer and more efficient. And that’s not all. It will also participate in building a smarter electric grid that is cheaper, less wasteful, more reliable and designed to supply power to electric vehicles while generating power through broadly distributed residential solar panels and other alternative sources.

Now it’s up to innovators to seize the opportunities.

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20 Mantras Great Leaders Live By Every Day

Written by James Curtiss | @

Original post

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This post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

Leadership can be a difficult characteristic to understand. Which qualities make someone a good leader? Do those same qualities translate to all aspects of life, or can a person successfully lead a sports team but fail in the boardroom? Are people born leaders, or can anyone inspire others to follow them?

I won’t pretend to know the answers to these questions, and I doubt that many people do.

But when I think about what it takes to be an effective leader, I am invariably reminded of late summer conversations with my grandfather on the deck of his home on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. We talked about anything and everything together — from the current state of Red Sox Nation to the most effective technique for shucking the cherrystone clams we collected earlier that day. But, on occasion, the discussion would drift towards more business-oriented topics and I got a free lesson in leadership studies from one of the very best.

To provide a little background, Don Davis, my grandfather, left a distinguished career in corporate America in 1988 to pursue his “retirement” as a professor at MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations program. During his 22-year tenure at the school, he shared the lessons he learned from his time in business and inspired more than a few of today’s most influential leaders.

As I am sure any of his former students will tell you, it would be nearly impossible to boil down all of his lessons into a single blog post. Fortunately, those same students were kind enough to compile a Memory Book after he passed away in order to share some of his most important teachings, namely the 20 leadership mantras that were core to his curriculum.

Here are those 20 mantras, along with some insight from our Martha’s Vineyard discussions. (For a more personal explanation of how these mantras helped various students succeed in business, you can find the Memory Book in its entirety here.)

1) Leaders don’t choose their followers. Followers choose their leaders.

One cannot simply choose to lead a group of people. You may be a leader in title, but you’re not a legitimate leader if your followers do not believe in you and your vision.

2) Followers choose leaders they trust, respect, and feel comfortable with.

If you don’t have the trust and respect of your followers, how are you supposed to make the connection necessary to inspire them to achieve great things?

3) Be yourself. The number of leadership styles is limitless.

There is no scientific formula for what makes a good leader, only a belief in your own ability as well as the ability of your followers to be successful.

4) Leaders need a base of power and authority — but the more they use it, the less there is left.

Needless to say, effective leadership requires a certain amount of authority. Like most forms of capital, that power is finite. Use it sparingly and only when necessary.

5) The best leadership is based on persuasion.

Anyone can have a vision. Leaders have the ability to persuade others to believe in their vision.

6) Leaders set the ethical standards and tone of their organizations by their behavior.

As a leader, you set the example. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want printed on the cover of the New York Times. Your followers are avid readers.

7) Integrity is the bedrock of effective leadership. Only you can lose your integrity.

Unethical behavior is a slippery slope. Avoid the slope at all costs because everyone slips.

8) “Selfship” is the enemy of leadership.

A true leader cares more about the success of his/her followers than their own success.

9) Be quick to praise, but slow to admonish. Praise in public, but admonish in private.

If you’re going to praise someone, do it big. If you’re going to reprimand, make sure it is warranted and do so in a respectful manner.

10) One of a leader’s key responsibilities is stamping out self-serving politics when they emerge.

As a leader, your job is to inspire the entire group. No single person is bigger than the group, not even the leader.

11) Be sure to know as much as possible about the people you are leading.

How can you inspire someone if you don’t know what motivates them?

12) One manages things, but people lead people.

It may be a bit cliché, but at the end of the day, followers are human beings. Don’t lose sight of that reality.

13) Diversity in an organization is not only legally required and socially desired — it’s also effective.

Every problem, obstacle, or issue has a different solution. Different perspectives make it much easier to identify the right solution.

14) Leadership should be viewed as stewardship.

Leader and teacher are synonyms, even if the Thesaurus tool in Microsoft Word doesn’t agree.

15) Don’t make tough decisions until you need to. Most will solve themselves with time.

Procrastination isn’t always a negative tendency. Don’t jump to conclusions. Sometimes you just have to give the problem time to work itself out.

16) When making decisions about people, listen to your gut.

Believe in your ability to identify the right talent. It’s your vision, so you should be able to recognize when a person embodies that vision.

17) People can see through manipulation and game-playing. Everyone can spot a phony.

This goes back to the mutual respect and trust that must exist between a leader and follower. Don’t undermine that mutual respect via manipulation. You’ll lose followers.

18) Learn to say, out loud, “I was wrong” and “I don’t know.”

You may be a leader, but you’re not omniscient. Don’t pretend to be.

19) If you know a plan or decision is wrong, don’t implement it. Instead, keep talking.

Don’t try to jam a square peg in a circular hole. Work with your team to figure out a way to round the edges of the peg so it fits properly.

20) Each of us has potential to lead, follow or be an individual contributor.

Potential is limitless and everyone has the ability to contribute to the success of a particular vision. It all depends on how strongly they believe in that vision.

There is no recipe for what makes a good leader, but these mantras can provide valuable guidelines. I wouldn’t trade those talks on the deck for anything.

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How Companies Can Use Big Data to Make Better Decisions

By:  – Associate Editor, BostInno

Big Data has swiftly earned a lasting place in our lexicon, because its potential is real and impact undeniable. Companies can collectively scoff and brush big data off as just another trend, but that decision could lead to worse decisions down the road.

how-predictive-analytics-can-make-money-for-social-networks-46ce73d0c0“Every era has a bold new innovation that emerges as a defining advantage for those who get out ahead of the curve,” said Ali Riaz, CEO of enterprise software company Attivio, referencing the industrial revolution and, later, the information age. Giants of industry who took advantage of new machinery or market leaders who learned to leverage relational databases have historically had the upperhand.

“Today’s advantage — the new currency, if you will — is big data,” Riaz added. “Companies that don’t get ahead of this tsunami by using big data to their advantage will be crushed by it.”

Yet, this deluge of data isn’t new, it’s just been given a catchy two-word title.

When asked to define big data, Ely Kahn, co-founder and VP of business development for big data start-up Sqrrl, described it as massive amounts — tera- and petabytes’ worth — of unstructured and semi-structured data “organizations have historically been unable to analyze because it was too expensive or difficult.” With technologies like Hadoop and NoSQL databases surfacing, however, Kahn claimed those same organizations can now make sense of this type of data “cost effectively.”

To Marilyn Matz, CEO of fellow big data startup Paradigm4, the revolution goes beyond just high volumes of information, though.

“It is about integrating and analyzing data collected from new sources,” Matz said. “A central capability this enables is hyper-personalization and micro-targeting — including recommendation engines, location-based services and offers, personalized pricing,
precision medicine
and predictive equipment maintenance schedules.”

No matter the industry, big data has a key role to play in moving the needle for companies,mobile-app whether large or small. And that goes for companies currently unable to determine what their “big data” is. The unrecognizable could be customer sentiment in social media, server logs or clickstream data.

“Once you have identified untapped sources of data,” Kahn said, “you can use tools like Hadoop and NoSQL to analyze it.”

Matz broke down, by industry, what that ability to analyze could mean.

In the Commercial Sphere

In the commercial sphere, if a company knows 10 or 100 things about you and your situational context, then that company can do a far better job offering you something relevant to exactly where you are and what you might be interested in, increasing their opportunity to capture your respect, attention and dollars.

In the Industrial World

In the industrial world, if a manufacturing company knows where equipment is operated (hot and harsh climates versus moderate climates), as well as how that equipment is being used (lots of hard-braking) and collects data across a large fleet, then it can predict maintenance before costly breakdowns, saving millions of dollars — and it can price warranties more accurately, as well as improve designs and manufacturing processes.

In Pharma and Healthcare

In pharma and healthcare, evidence-based outcome studies that integrate genomic data, phenotypic data, clinical data, behavioral data, daily sensor data, et al., can lead to more targeted and effective treatment and outcomes for both wellness and illness.

Attivio has been using big data in one of the most vital ways by focusing on detecting military personnel who are at risk for suicide.

But, of course, big data still comes with challenges. Riaz acknowledged the reality, which is that every large organization is comprised of disconnected silos of information that come in all different formats; let alone the various business units, applications, protocols, information repositories, terminologies and schemas that doesn’t always mesh.

program-hero-strategic-analytics“Just dumping data into these unorganized but separate systems is anarchy and an egregious waste of time and money,” Riaz said. “Yet, this is how many technologies address the problem. It essentially just creates another big silo for the information to live in.”

Moving forward, additional ways to combine structured and unstructured data, as well as merge data from within an enterprise to data from outside of it, will need to emerge. And when it does, the impact will be glaringly obvious.

As Riaz posited:

The time to solve big problems with extreme information is upon us. Businesses, organizations and governments are putting a lot of faith – and money – into technology solutions to help them make sense of it all. As a technology industry, we owe it to these companies to deliver real products that deliver real results to real problems, not just create more work.

So, let’s start by making that first big decision: Understanding big data’s importance, no matter how big of a buzzword it’s become.

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The Luxury of Less

by: Katherine S Rowell author of “The Best Boring Book Ever of Select Healthcare Classification Systems and Databases” available now!

Originally posted here

I often find myself torn between wanting to get as much useful information as possible onto a single page of the reports and dashboards we design and build, and my love of white space, or “The Luxury of Less.” In a page lay-out, white space (also called “negative space”) is the portion of a page deliberately left unmarked. When well chosen and placed, it is a key contributor to attractive, effective design. Done poorly, it can make a page appear incomplete or even pretentiously minimal.

Consider the following example of the potential power of white space, illustrated by Edward Tufte’s redesign of a table of cancer survival statistics.

Original Table:

Source: Hermann Brenner, "Long-term survival rates of cancer patient[s] achieved by the end of the 20th century; a period analysis," The Lancet, 360 (October 12, 2002), 1131-1135.

Tufte First Iteration Table Redesign:

Source: Edward Tufte

Second Table-Graph Iteration:

Source: Edward Tufte

The original table, which is similar to the ones we are accustomed to seeing in scientific publications, is ordered by body system and is perfectly adequate for the look-up and comparison of values, including details about the Standard Error (SE) of each value-that is, it serves its purpose. But could it be improved?

Tufte’s first redesign highlights a particular (and newly featured) aspect of the data: five-year survival rates by type of cancer. Notice how each row in this re-done table has a bit more white space: heavy black lines framing the titles and column-headings, and parentheses around the standard errors, have been removed, giving some visual respite and making the figures more legible. The re-categorization of the data also makes a trend it illustrates somewhat easier to spot (take a minute to look at the information in the first column and follow it across; you’ll see it). The entire table looks and feels cleaner, and especially for research publications that require reporting and display of all relevant statistics, this table redesign works very well.

The third table-graphic-a hybrid of the two forms-provides yet another view, and a different data-visualization lesson. It presents the viewer with a clear picture of survival time gradients, illustrating the slope of survival rates for each type of cancer. In this last table-graphic, there is an even greater use of white space, and every visual element contributes directly to understanding-simply, elegantly, clearly. The use of space coupled with a line to show the slope of change leaves no doubt about the story in the data.

Although I see no compelling reason why a view like this couldn’t be used in a research publication (adding back in the standard errors), this is of course wishful thinking on my part: it simply won’t happen any time soon. What isn’t wishful thinking, however, is that we have immediate opportunities to use these techniques to build the tables and other displays we create for our clients, supervisors, and colleagues. We can most certainly use them to simplify and clarify information for patients and the general public, too.

Bottom line? Tufte reminds us yet again of the power of simplicity, and that showing less often reveals so much more.

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