Wanted: “Geeky” Leaders

Leaders of Tomorrow

Data, Data, Everywhere

Organizations of all sizes literally have mountains of operational data available at their fingertips. One common problem, that just won’t go away, is no one in operations or safety does much or anything with it as they should. Trends are missed and opportunities are foregone.

On November 14th through 15th, the Annual WSJ CEO Council was held to discuss  “trade, education, regulation, energy policy, immigration, national security and other matters directly affecting business.”

One of the speakers at this year’s CEO Council meeting was Andrew McAfee, co-director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy at MIT. McAfee spoke on “The Future of Jobs” and the importance of leadership style in what some now call the Second Industrial Revolution.

Common Themes and Consistent Patterns

McAfee sees five common themes and consistent patterns in “the companies that are creating the future.”

  1. They are bold and not afraid of making big bets.
  2. They move in a series of small, but rapid steps.
  3. Their strategic vision remains, but plans go no further than three to six months.
  4. They are dominated by evidence.
  5. They are open minded.

McAfee says these days the dominant mode for decision making is to rely on what he calls are the HiPPOs–the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.

Should a problem arise, says McAfee, everyone turns to the highest paid person in the room and asks, “Oh, HiPPO, what shall we do?”

McAfee suggests, instead, problems need to be solved by first looking at the preponderance of evidence (the data) and then go where it tells you to go. Then act on this new information. McAfee calls this “Geeky Leadership.”

The traditional method of problem solving–asking the HiPPO for an opinion–may not serve your organization well. A much better alternative is to conduct small scale experiments or pilot programs and find out what works or doesn’t work. Then let the hard evidence and facts be your guide, not a persuasive pitch or personality.

“This is what I see the excellent companies doing–over and over.” Andrew McAfee

McAfee intentionally avoided using the word “technology.” Technology is a given. There are many technological changes occurring all around us. It’s truly mind boggling at times.

For the most part, these changes will be good . . . in the sense they will contribute to a greater rise in the overall standards of living for most people. If your company or career is caught in the cross-hairs of change, your opinion may differ.

To protect your company (and your career), look for ways to take advantage of your available data streams, and always be ready to present this information when needed. You are probably already doing this, but if not, plan on having more data and facts to support whatever you are doing.

Thank you for reading this.