I’m an analyst. I analyse.

Tired and socially exhausted after a very nice company dinner (a common predicament for introverts), I was looking forward to some me-time on the taxi home. But it was not to be — the taxi driver was a little chattier than I’d hoped.

Having seen me catch his taxi amongst a group of foreigners whom presumably were my colleagues (yes, they were), he was curious as to what I did — “what do you work as?” I told him I worked in the education industry, and briefed him a little on what my company did.

I then went into a little bit more of the specifics — what my role entailed (“I’m a sales/business analyst. You know… business, IT, data, analysis…).

But I saw he wasn’t really getting it (“you analyse?…”)

In the end, I went on to the fall-back option of saying, “I work in sales and marketing.” (I’ve faced this issue many times before. See my post “What do you do? I’m an analyst.“)

And he got it. It seems he got it real good.

A most unexpected look of shock followed by abject pity came over his face. “Boss,” he told me, “I used to work in marketing. But look where I am now.”

I noticed we were in a taxi.

“Boss,” he continued (“I’m a boss!” I thought to myself), “before I started driving a taxi, I used to work in marketing. Earning big bucks. Then my company restructured and I got retrenched. I earned too much.”

He paused, as if reminiscing of the good ol’ days rolling in dough, then said, “You know, in marketing, as long as you earn money by only talking, anyone can take over your place and do your job. Let me give you some advice: don’t just stick to marketing. Go out and learn more.”

I realised that no, he didn’t really get what I did (yes, I work in sales and marketing; but no, I don’t do “marketing” per se).

And I couldn’t help but debate in my head if he meant “sales” and not “marketing”.

My head pounded. Was it the wine? Probably not.

I half-opened my mouth wanting to say something. But you know what? He looked so happy (1) reminiscing about his glorious past; and (2) revelling in the present dispensing career advice to a chap who desperately needed it; that I couldn’t bear to break the spell by saying “you got it all wrong, sir.”

So I nodded in silent agreement, and promised to look beyond marketing. A promise made good as soon as it was made.

I’m an analyst. And I’m bloody glad I am.

Teach teachers, and business leaders, how to create magic

A lovely and interesting talk by Christopher Emdin on teaching. Although aimed at the teaching profession, I couldn’t help but see how what he mentioned about teaching teachers to teach was applicable outside the profession. It is a talk about engagement; about keeping audiences entertained; about connecting with audiences.

Those of us who often present in dry and boring business meetings could take a cue from him. “And with that market move, we are 95% confident that sales of widgets would be driven up by at least 10%. Can I hear an amen to that?!”

How to convince the inconvincible

So how does one go about convincing the inconvincible (actually a proper word as per Webster)? Contrary to popular belief, there’s no need to resort to heavy artillery. Just an interesting new tool in thinking I just learned from the book Decisive by Chip Heath (great book by the way).

The tool is this question: “What data might convince us of that?”

As in, “What if our least favourite option were actually the best one? What data might convince us of that?”

It’s actually a great way to convince the inconvincible.

Instead of two or more parties with differing agendas going head to head and each sticking to their guns, say in a company making a decision that would benefit one party and/or penalize  the other, both are asked “what has got to be true in order for the other side to be right?”

In this way, both are forced to have tangible “targets” (a KPI or a number of some sort) instead of a vague sense of right. Both will also have no choice but to put themselves In the other person’s shoes in order to think of these targets (“what has to be true on order for them to be right”?)

“If it takes a 12-month revenue losing streak before you are convinced there’s something wrong with the organisational structure (just three months away), then fine, I’m happy to wait till then to get your complete buy in, because I know we’re going to hit that streak and I don’t want this argument to drag any longer than it needs to.”

Whatever anyone feels about the decision, if that 12-month losing streak is hit, a decision will be made.

There’s just no more arguing if both parties agree on what has to be right (the KPIs; the right “targets”) because the data is the data, and if it overwhelmingly shows that one party is right (as agreed beforehand), then objectively that party is right.