Social Impact on Big Data

red-wood-ant-4398_640-300x225BizKnowlogy recently guest blogged on PreScouter, click for the full article.

Summary: Social Marketers are using big data to drive eyeballs and shopping carts. You are the product. The simple goal: treat you like an ant. Put sugar directly in front, and like the ant, you will consume it quickly. People are not ants. To understand people you need to look at all the social relationships. You cannot just dig up the ant nest and peer into all the tunnels.  You need other big data tools to examine the many ways people interact to form a complex social web.

The Good News, “..the trends are clear; it will be possible to re-shape our world. BIG DATA is getting BIGGER and BETTER.  Our SOCIAL awareness is following the same trajectory sociologists followed. We are shifting from understanding INDIVIDUALS to GROUPS to CITIES and beyond.  We are shifting from counting things and individual behaviors to understanding connections across large groups.”


Masthead image via qthomasbower @ flikr

The World Aint Flat. It’s Bumpy

globe_east_540Why is the flat earth so bumpy?

As Thomas Friedman’s 2005 bestseller “The World is Flat” shows us the world is flat. With distance virtually eliminated, creating new relationships and connections with suppliers, customers and employees has never been easier.

Surely, the world  is flatter today? I can hire just about any service or advice through the click of a button. Sites like elance, guru, freelancer and others make it easy. With massively open online courses (MOOCs eg: UdacityCoursera, and edX, iversity) I can attend school on nearly any subject. For learning a language or a musical instrument, hiring a teacher through a video conference call, gives me choice to work with native speakers and music masters. All in all these are smooth simple transactions.

With the ease at which Friedman explains the chaotic world,  many people continue to believe the internet has flattened the world.

“The World Ain’t Flat. It’s Bumpy”

If the internet is such an all powerful equalizer leveling the playing field, why bother to hold peace talks in person?

Trust is built by sitting at the same table, at the same time†.  Creating trust cannot be commoditized. The trust needed in complex business (and personal) dealings is not a simple elance transaction.  Humans are social creatures. We need to see, touch, feel, smell, inuit, and taste the situation.

So when making decisions, understand the relationship being created. For simple commodity like transactions, the world is very flat. For complex transactions the world is very very bumpy. If you are competing against a commodity try to make the world bumpier. If you are competing at distance try to make the world flatter. Know how to use each strategy to your advantage.


† There is a fancy word, “propinquity” meaning 1: nearness of blood : kinship; or 2: nearness in place or time : proximity.


The Broken Bell Curve

Sea Shells by Inspirational.Images, on Flickr

We have been brainwashed to believe in the almighty bell-curve. Throughout our entire academic schooling, we ask “Will this be graded on a bell curve?” In business school we learn statistics, financial analysis and quantitive modeling – all use the bell curve. Six Sigma, the gold standard for process improvement,  holds the bell curve on a pedestal; allowing only only 3.4 defects per 1 million parts – making perfection the bell curve’s domain.

With all this brainwashing, we use the bell curve when we shouldn’t.  The bell curve is a probability distribution based on randomness – like throwing two dice at the Las Vegas craps table, sevens are thrown more often than snake-eyes (a two).  A person’s behavior is not random! It might feel random to you, when you “bump” into your neighbor while standing in-line at the airport.  If you both live in Los Angeles, you don’t drive to Colorado and then use the airport. Instead, you will both use the Los Angeles airport. So guess what? Every single time you analyze people, a community, a city, a club, a university, an institution, a non-profit agency, a government, a country, or any human-human activity you [highlight4]don’t get a bell curve[/highlight4]†.

So why do companies still measure a salesperson’s productivity by counting things? by trying to put defects on a bell curve? Companies count the number of phone calls, emails, appointments, call-backs, demos, letters, promotions, banner clicks, and on and on. Because that’s what you do when you want to grade salespeople on a bell-curve. 

Ask a salesperson. They’ll tell you its about the relationships. Success is about the depth and breadth of the relationship.

So start measuring relationships. Start measuring social graphs and social networks. STOP measuring with bell curves! Bell curves are more cracked than the Liberty Bell.


† Communities follow a power law scale free relationship.  This is the same as the 80/20 (Pareto) rule. Where 80% of your revenue only takes 20% of your effort; and the remaining 20% revenue takes 80% of your effort.

Number One Thing to Know about Social Prestige

ID-10084546What’s the first thing people do when they sit down in a meeting? Especially a meeting with people they don’t know — they size up the room. They look for clues as to who is the alpha male or alpha female.  We all intuitively try to figure out “Who’s in charge?” and “What is the pecking order?” This behavior is so ingrained in our DNA that we often don’t even realize we are judging social standing and prestige.

Merriam-Webster defines prestige as  the standing or estimation in the eyes of people : weight or credit in general opinion.  Sociologists provide further expand this definition to four dimensions. Social prestige is the sum total of  the respect, honor, recognition or courtesy that an individual receives from other members of society or the group to which they belong. For example dons, Mafia bosses are well respected within the Mafia but overall society considers them criminals, not worthy of social prestige.

So if you want prestige, understand the group and company in which you find yourself, and work to be at its center;  progress will be recognized through the respect, honor, recognition and the courtesy you receive.


Image courtesy of Mr. Lightman /

Most Important Thing About Social Networking

17003_wpm_lowresLinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, Pinterist, MySpace, Google+, Meetup are just some of the most popular social networking sites. But, What is the most important thing to remember about Social Networking? Don’t over think the answer. Humans are social! To be social means we are connected. We cooperate to survive.  Even a baby enters this world as part of a family network – some large families others just a mother.

Social networking sites are just simply an extension of our humanity and ability to connect with others. We use them to connect; to communicate; to belong; to interact. The better our ability to connect, either in real life or the virtual social network the greater our social prestige. More on this in my next post.



Inescapable network of mutuality

MartinLutherKing_NPSGOVSocial networks inescapably impact our lives. Even those Luddites yet to sign in to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, are impacted. With events from the Arab Spring still unfolding, the global “we” are realizing what great leaders have always known.

[blockquote cite=”Martin Luther King ” citeLink=””]We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. Martin Luther King 1963[/blockquote]

As we enter the Connected Age, of people connected to machines connected to people, or – just simply – people connected to people, Dr. Kings words in a simple letter remain strong and profound. The global “we” are truly [highlight3]caught in an inescapable network. [/highlight3]  Next time you write a simple email, blog, or post a comment or  Youtube video – remember you have the power to affect your fellow man for good.

Must innovation be socially acceptable?

[blockquote cite=”—Tim Brown, president and CEO ” citeLink=””]Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” [/blockquote]

IDEO co-founder Tom Kelley recently (see prior post – Creativity drives economic growth) elaborated on this concept. Sharing decades worth innovation research.


Design thinking covers three overlapping concepts: inspirationideation, and implementation. But more importantly for innovation to happen three things [highlight3]must[/highlight3] exist:

[fancy_list style=”bullet_list”]

  • People must find the innovation desirable
  • The innovation must be technically feasible
  • Finally, there must be a viable business model[/fancy_list]

With IDEO focused on new product innovation, these make complete sense.

But innovations are not limited to just commercial products and services for sale. Innovation is not just products but also ideas. Ideas do not need to be commercially viable. They just need to be socially viable. Meaning an idea has to be acceptable to a group of people – an online group, a department, a club etc…

For example, Galileo, asserted  that the sun was the center and not the earth. The Catholic church took nearly 400 years to accept the idea.

Consider today’s Green and Organic movements, both are commercially viable only because they are now socially viable.






Insights into Collaboration

Complexity[dropcap2]C[/dropcap2]ollaboration is simultaneously man’s greatest achievement and our biggest mystery. Our ability to collaborate, to build roads, economies, smart phones, space ships, friendships, villages, cities, companies or to build tomorrows cools new gadgets, are all possible because we are social creatures; we cooperate. And yes – unfortunately – we do cooperate to conduct war or terrorism. But collaboration is such a pervasive and natural phenomena that we take it for granted; we don’t even stop to consider it. We just live it. And if we do think about the social collaboration, the task is daunting, very big and seemingly complex.  But with ingenuity we are fast developing tools and methods to study the very fabric of what makes human social systems work. And in the true spirit of collaboration, Santa Fe Institute is offering a free online introductory class on Complexity Theory. So if you’ve ever wondered why or how the system works, consider taking their class. Check out their introductory video [youtube url=”″ width=”280″ height=”158″ autohide=”0″]

Networks – Do you have a spiders view or a global view?

Spider Web[dropcap2]M[/dropcap2]y wife recently forwarded me an article “Databases Offer Opportunity To Weed Out Retail Job Applicants Who Are Theft Risks”  from her daily news. The article got my blood boiling. Nationally recognized retailers are creating a blacklist.  People accused of petty theft and shoplifting are being routinely added to a Do Not Hire database without any due process. I’m not really surprised but it is just plain wrong – the Federal Trade Commission has begun investigating.

I do understand that companies will “network” together to collaborate and solve problems. In this case retailers, are trying to solve the age old theft problem that has plagued them since cavemen started bartering.

But as I look forward companies will soon be unable to unilaterally impose their will. With the massive connectedness of the internet, information roams free.  Information is no longer controlled by any one entity (company, government, institution or individual). Information flows across the complete network “ecosystem.”  This subtle change has profound consequences for companies trying to collaborate and share practices. Solving problems by reaching for the quickest solution, such as creating a black list are no longer sufficient. Quick solutions have a way of creating problems for other stakeholders. Since when do companies have a right to ignore due process and trample our valued, “innocent until proven guilty.” Earth_at_Night

This quick solution approach, is like the spiders perspective; they are masters of what gets caught in their small web.  But with free roaming information they  are likely to have their hard work trampled. On the other hand companies that embrace the entire ecosystem cannot get trampled. They are forever embedded in the system. Companies clinging to the old social network paradigms will find themselves stuck so much like the fly in the global web, and a snack soon forgotten.

See also: NY Times article.


Technology Technology everywhere and not a drop to drink

samsung_galaxy_s4Go ahead pull out your phone – it doesn’t matter if its a smart phone or the original 2-pound Motorola brick. Explain to your friend how the cell phone works. Some of you engineer types might make a good show of it. Now I’ll make the next question easier. List just 50% of the jobs needed to make that phone work. Here’s some to get you going: electrical engineers, software engineers, model makers, touch screen experts, power design engineers, cellular transmission experts… and the list goes on with store clerks, purchasing agents, quality control, shipping/receiving…and on and on. Technology is an incredible ecosystem.  But like most ecosystems, there is an endangered species.  Watch the following video

The endangered species is knowledge — The Knowledge to build, and create new technology. So the next time you take for granted technology, consider that someone has to make it all work. Consider who will build tomorrows technology? Help yourselves and help the next generation.