Posts from the “Information” Category


Posted on February 5, 2017


When you’re driving, keep an eye on the tires of cars around you to more accurately predict turns and lane changes. In many sports, it’s watching the core – the center of gravity – of your opponent, avoiding the distractions of the extremities. What are the worthwhile predictors around you? “Old fishermen used to say it had to do with the moon, the wind, the lay of the seaweed on a low-tide rock…” *

The Best At…

Posted on December 23, 2016


“We want to be the best store in the world, the best shop in the world. Now what does that mean? That means a lot of things to a lot of people. When we benchmark other companies, we don’t really look at any retail or fashion companies. We look at food, and we look at hospitality. So hotels and food. Because those are the people that are closest to the customer. And it is super intimate. That’s what we want. We want that kind of relationship with our customer, so they feel completely taken care of.” –Sid Mashburn *

The Good Old Days

Posted on November 5, 2016


David McCullough once told a story about growing up and watching a presidential election with his father. Voting reports trickled in to the news the evening of the election, but David went to bed before the final results were known. In the morning, David rushes downstairs – as only a future historian would do – asking eagerly, “who won…who won?!?” David’s father hangs his head in dejection and says, “Truman…” Years later, David and his father were talking politics, and his father bemoaned the current state of affairs, “If only good old Harry was still in the White House.” With US election results coming in next week, I wonder how each of our perspectives will change over the years.   *

Peer of One

Posted on September 10, 2016


My team was calculating benchmark comparisons for a client, and I called an abrupt mental break. Really, how similar are these peer companies? Is Ford the same as General Motors? Coca-Cola and PepsiCo? Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi? Are company components – like people, process, or technology – commodities to be easily transferred? How much of one company would need to be replicated elsewhere in order to produce similar results? Yes, we can compare metrics to identify and apply best practices in domains, but ultimately an organization has its own history, culture and structure at a point in time. It has only one true peer…itself. “…if you want to rework Matisse, you’ll just be a bad Matisse, that’s all.” -Donald Judd It’s similar with individuals. Your specific personality, choices…


Posted on February 19, 2016


During the 1970s, the average person doubled the amount of soda they drank; by the 1980s consumption had overtaken tap water. Coca-Cola bottlers in this era were essentially printing money, and the décor of the locally-owned bottling plants often showed it. A private elevator here, shag carpeting there, custom wood panels, windows fabricated like bottle caps, extra facilities for the owner, etc. I visited one of the relics on a project in the 2000s. Although the functioning part of the plant had been neatly renovated and modernized, a portion was cordoned off…like a walk-in time capsule collecting dust. I noticed a maintenance team reassembling a massive air conditioning unit for the facility. They had been at it two days, tracing a foul-smelling suspected carcass in the…

Scanned It

Posted on December 18, 2015


Marcia Vaitsman has talked about scanning her negatives again and again to see what images appear in the photographs. What shows up eventually might not be noticeable, or even visible, at first glance. It’s like a meticulous driver checking her vehicle until she find something wrong. What’s there? What can be improved? There has to be something! If everything is cursory, something is missing. *

Data Endorsement

Posted on November 13, 2015


A few thoughts triggered by Amazon’s fight against fake reviews: There is an increasing tendency to quantify and apply big data concepts to measurement as access to data expands and comfort with data use increases…the big data hammers around you will look for nails. The more underlying drivers to a single measurement, the greater the subjectivity and confusion that will result…if you want actionable information, you can do better than star ratings. The more value derived from a measurement, the greater the inherent risk of manipulation…one extra star on a restaurant’s Yelp rating boosts revenue by 5-9%. Without diligence and reinforcement, the perception of trustworthiness with online reviews will fall over time…of course the Amazon lawsuit is peppered with words of trust: authentic, honest, unbiased, credibility, integrity, etc. The dynamics across social media, celebrity, critics and other gatekeepers…