What data really is

It took a while to come to this conclusion. When I first started consulting some years back, I thought it was about insights and social data. Now people are onto “insights”, “social media” and “big data” (ad nauseam). What consultants and practitioners should really be trying to do is help organizations make more contextual decisions, faster.

You may note that I used to call this blog Intelligence, Communications, Change. The order is not coincidental.

Its reasoning goes as such:

  1. Unfortunately, organizations are not set up to handle the majority of intelligence or “insights” that we may find when mining the web or other data sources.
  2. I gather intelligence, communicate and then try to change a given instance or situation. Always changing and making decision more accurately and faster.
  3. To have the most benefit from analytics and data means turning the insights or analytics unit into an ongoing change management program. With the ultimate goal being to set up the organization to think contextually, as well as be ever cognizant of the “perfect is the enemy of good” principle – an “ok decision” that is fast typically has more value than a perfect one down the line.

Never before has there been so much information available to us. Every day there are 3.6 trillion words created on email and social media — the equivalent of 36 million books. Today more data crosses the internet every second than was stored in the entire internet just 20 years ago. The bigger risk is being tame and will put you in the doghouse faster than any sort fallout a thoughtful experiment would have. Over a long enough time, eventually, people and companies can piece together what ever competitive advantage a person or company may have. Those concerned with protecting IP or “trade secrets” will be irrelevant and miss opportunities simply because of the rapidly deteriorating value they perceive in their IP.

As the great basketball coach John Wooden said:

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

CT

European Union 2014 hash-tag engagement

Germany is without question the most powerful and important member state in the EU. Everything rides towards, through and with Berlin. With that in mind, and since Germans have been typically disengaged in EU Affairs, I decided to take a quick look at European Parliament election hash-tags (#EP2014, #EU14 and #EU2014) to see which member states are engaging and which ones are not.

A few years back I worked for the EPP Group, Europe’s largest political party. The future power of Germany was obvious at the time since it was right in the middle of the shit-storm of the Euro-crisis. I started to see how the EPP efforts to communicate with the Germans were going. I found out from an analysis of online media that Germans weren’t at all engaged with the EU or their MEPs. The French actually commented on German EPP MEP media more than the Germans. When it came to French EPP MEPs, Germany didn’t return the love. Who did? Believe it or not the people in the US, keeping a close eye on the global markets, accounted  for about 49% of French EPP MEP content comments. Who says US citizens are close-minded? I felt at the time, and still do, that comments were a pretty decent KPI to show some interest and engagement, especially since it took a bit more effort at the time – online and social media wasn’t as widely adopted. Below is the actual chart I showed my colleagues at the EPP about 3 years ago. This was prior to the “big data” hype machine.

French and German EPP MEPS: Comments to Media Out Put

Seeing the data, the EPP Group should have focused on changing this deficit in an aggressive, coordinated manner. You just can’t have a strong EU with out an engaged Germany.

Fast-forward 3 years. The EU Parliament elections are coming up. The EU institutions are being questioned, and referendums to withdraw have become focal points in the UK. And there’s  lots of money backing this idea. Is this completely because of a disengaged Germany? Not at all. Some of it is just  far-right jargon inherent to a bad economy which leaders actually have very little control over, but it still makes a big difference when the most powerful member state is apathetic and disengaged.

In present day 2014, not much has changed. Although hash-tags are probably not the most precise KPIs and leave a bit to be desired (I needed something quick), the data shows that in proportion to German MEP market share, Germany is still the most disengaged country when it comes to mentioning on EU election-specific hash-tags.  What was really telling was that the little country of Greece had just 62 less mentions than Germany, despite Germany being about seven times the size.  In fact, only five member states were a net positive (including Greece). Belgium  ranked first, obviously because Brussels is home to most of the EU institutions.  The “Brussels Bubble” is alive and well, even though this time it was supposed to be different.

EU Election Hashtag Member State Market Share

Hashtag MEP to Mention Deficit

In politics, getting people mad often drives engagement. This sometimes drives voting rates to the parties that many deem to be unreasonable (Vlaams Belang, Front National etc) . For example, we see Mr. Farage’s Euro skeptic party UKIP has utterly dominated communications compared to the other European Parliament political groups. This isn’t a good thing if you note that most of the time the winners have more mention volume . Surely Europe is stronger and more competitive together than it is fragmented. Nonetheless, if mainstream parties can’t even figure out how to communicate and run a proper campaign, why should they be trusted with leadership?

EP Group Market Share

These deficits could have and should have been addressed years ago. You could see them coming from miles away, yet those in power ignored the data or just made half-hearted and superficial efforts to save face. It’s not always easy to lead and no one expects it to be, but at some point you have to make bold moves, seek out candor and take a look in the mirror.

 

The German election and EU political communications

For this post, I decided to remain old school and mainly rely on search data. It’s pretty basic, but typically offers a great view of what people are interested in. Google’s market share is around 90% in Europe and it’s the most visited site in the world. In my opinion, Google Trends is the largest focus group in the world.

First I looked at the overall interest in Germany between Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück, as well as their political affiliations – the CDU and PSD. Initially, I was curious as to how party identity interest compared to interest in the politician. To anchor this chart I did the same with US presidential campaign (the chart below). I have a hunch, and the data seems to be telling me thus far, that the more media-oriented politics becomes (along with everything else in the world), the more important celebrity, authenticity, and individuality becomes. Take a look at this recent brand analysis done by Forbes. Chris Christie wins, having the highest approval rating of over 3,500 “brands” according to BAV (awesome company) at 78%. For those that don’t know, Christie is probably the most straight forward tell-it-like-it-is politician in the country.

So what can we learn from the Google search interest shown below?

Google search data of the 2013 German elections
Google search data of the 2013 German elections
Obama, McCain, Romney, Democrat and Republican search interest.
Obama, McCain, Romney, Democrat and Republican search interest.
  • Politics is still about sheer volume and name recognition. For those that think being novel and unique achieves victory over blasting away nonstop in a strategically framed and coordinated way, think again.  People tune out if they aren’t interested. Irrelevance is almost always worse than bad PR  or sentiment (excluding a case like Anthony Weiner). You simply don’t win if you don’t interest people. If people aren’t talking about you, you’re not interesting. Merkel had more search interest than Steinbrück and over the course of the year probably got 10,000 times more airtime, both good and bad, due to her large role in the euro crisis.  In short, repetition is king.
  • Framing and consistent language strategy is vital. Volume can be shown to equate with recognition of a person, but this can easily enough be analogized to a policy or issue. Give me a choice between a clever social media strategy or consistent language strategy, meaning all the key issues are repeated by the party and coordinated as much as possible, and I’ll take the language strategy any day. It’s amazing how just being consistent in political communications is overlooked by companies and political leaders in Europe. Social media tends to be a framing conduit, not the reason people mobilize or have opinions.
  • The world is growing ever more connected. Look at how global the reporting of the German election was. Obviously, its importance was higher due to Germany’s rising influence, but none the less the amount of sources from all over the world is impressive. A note for the upcoming EU elections: don’t forget to target the USA and other regions to influence specific regions in Europe. A German constituent might read about a policy from the Financial Times, a Frenchman the Wall Street Journal or an American based in Brussels, who knows Europeans who can vote, Bloomberg.

Location of sources reporting on German elections events/happeningsI decided to throw in Twitter market share of the candidates from August 21st to September 21st, the day prior to elections.  I found it interesting to see how closely Belgium and the United State reflect Germany, probably because these countries are looking at the elections from more of a spectator view. Meanwhile, southern Europe, which had a vested interest in the election, was pretty much aligned. France, Spain, and Italy seem to report a bit more, and in a similar way, on Merkel – probably due to sharing the same media sources. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to look into this pattern too much at the moment, but it’s something I’ll continue to think about in the future.

Market-share of Twitter for Germany Election candidates: USA,DE,BE
Market-share of Twitter for Germany Election candidates: USA,DE,BE,PT,FR,ES,IT

DE Elections Twitter market share south EU

Breakdown of TTIP and TAFTA

TTIP/TAFTA is a true game changer for both the EU and US in terms of economic value, especially in a time of crisis for the EU.  To find out exactly what content people consumed and analyze policy trends, we mined the web (big data). At the moment TTIP/TAFTA  is not being met without issues – as we all know in Brussels – #NSAGate, data privacy and IP are slowing down negotiations (we’re looking at you France), and this is generally what the data had to say as well.

Over view: 5,505 mentions of  TTIP/TAFTA in the last 100 days – too large of number for business and institutions to ignore. In short you need to join the conversation if you have something to say about it ASAP (indecision is a decision).

Overview of the last 100 days amplitude.
Overview of the last 100 days amplitude.

The biggest uptick – a total of 300 mentions – came when Obama spoke at the G-8 summit in Ireland on June 17th when trade talks began. The key theme at this time was the potential boost in the economy. The official press release is here.

“The London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research estimates a pact – to be known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – could boost the EU economy by 119 billion euros (101.2 billion pounds) a year, and the U.S. economy by 95 billion euros.However, a report commissioned by Germany’s non-profit Bertelsmann Foundation and published on Monday, said the United States may benefit more than Europe. A deal could increase GDP per capita in the United States by 13 percent over the long term but by only 5 percent on average for the European Union, the study found.”

Given that there is conflicting information we wanted to see whose idea and data wins out – the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) or Bertelsmann Foundation (BF)? To do this we looked to see which study was referenced most. The chart below shows the mentions of each organization within the TTIP/TAFTA conversation over the last 100 days. The Center for Economic Policy Research is in orange and the Bertelsmann Foundation is in green.

Research cited most for TAFTA and TTIP

In total both studies were cited almost the same amount:

  • Centre for Economic Policy Research: 80 Mentions
  • Bertelsmann Foundation: 83 mentions
  • Both organizations were mentioned together 53 Times.

More recently though the trend seems to show that the Economic Policy Research is being cited most in the last 30 days, including a large uptick on July 8th. This is mainly due to the market share of the sources being located more in the US and the US wanting to get a deal done faster than the more hesitant Europeans. Keep in mind the CEP claims larger benefits of TAFTA/TTIP than the BF study.

Locations of the Center for Economic Policy Research and the Bertelsmann Foundation. Very diverse and more equal location market share.
Locations of the Center for Economic Policy Research and the Bertelsmann Foundation in the last 30 days: Notice the location marketshare is less diverse and dominated by the USA.

Where are the mentions?

  • The  US had 2,743 mentions (49% overall)
  • All of Europe combined total was 1,986 (36% overall)

Image

Of the topics ACTA is still being talked about with, IP and Data Protection top the list. This is not surprising given France’s reluctance to be agreeable because of the former and #prism, so below are those themes plotted.

Breakdown and trend graph of Topics surrounding TTIP TAFTA
Breakdown and trend graph of Topics surrounding TTIP TAFTA

The top stories on Twitter are in the table below. It’s not surprising that the White House is number one, but where are the EU institutions and media on this?

Top Stories Tweets Retweets All Tweets Impressions
White House 37 15 52 197738
Huff Post  26 0 26 54419
Forbes  23 0 23 1950786
JD Supra 15 2 17 42304
Wilson Center  12 7 19 72424
Facebook 12 0 12 910
Italia Futura 8 0 8 16640
BFNA 7 0 7 40246
Citizen.org 7 13 20 69356
Slate  7 0 7 13927

Everybody knows the battle for hearts and minds of people starts with a good acronym so I broke down the market share between TTIP (165) and TAFTA (2197):

Acronym Market Share: TTIP V TAFTA

I may add more in the coming days but those are a few simple bits of info for now.  Nonetheless if you want to join the conversation on Twitter the top hashtags are below.

Top Hashtags for the TTIP and TAFTA debate
Top Hashtags for the TTIP and TAFTA debate

Barroso and Kerry Analysis

I decided to break down the events of John Kerry visit to Jose Barroso. The reactions are not drastic as I would have thought considering GMO’s and IP are two issues that people care about on both continents, and the Free Trade Agreement is making some actual headway. We will have more on this in the future, but here are small bits of data for starters

map barroso&kerry
We see that the reporting on the John Kerry and Baroso event is reported on in Brussels 33 times – much more than any other area except for the entire US. Below we see events with organizations and people that both of them together are tied to.
Social Network Barroso & Kerry

Cross referencing what each leader said within the context above is where it gets interesting. Questions to ask: Who were their targets? Did they attain any impact?

Twitter overlap Kerry Barroso

When I first arrived to Brussels I was always amazed at how disconnected D.C was from Brussels with that I decided to look at who was following who. We see that only 1.1% follow both. In short they are disconnected networks. For Comparison sake I also did Obama V Barroso but since Obama has over 30 million follower, the tools I was using at the moment couldn’t process such large amounts of data.

The EU: Hooking up with Technology

Jose is trying to learn how to get a date . There’s a conference at a local hotel on how to pick up women. On his way to the room, Jose’ encounters two doors. One  leads to the conference taught by men on how to pick up girls. The other door has a  sign that says “Successful single women’s conference. Please join us for a drink,  anyone is welcome”.  Jose chooses the first door as he had planned, and continues learning about how to pick up women. The EU relationship with using technology is  like Jose’s approach to trying to pick up women, hesitation and unwillingness to  adapt in real-time, to the peril of the end goal – i.e. institutional.

One day I was talking about online media monitoring to the  institutions “social media expert”.  I was asked  “why do we need to understand what people are saying about us?” I was shocked and had no answer except to point out Interest in the EU has gone down every year since 2004 http://ow.ly/8w2Gs. Specifically alarming was that the Parliament, which is supposed to be the extension of the people, had the lowest interest rate.

googletrends
Blue – European Union
Red – European Commission
Yellow – European Parliament

Now having worked in US politics,  a good place to start making a more legitimate government, is being more representative of constituents..and understanding what people are saying about you allows you to create better policies and messages that can help engage people, and perhaps increase the voting rates.

Both EU firms and institutions spend way too much time discussing what technology such as social media is, or what it means, but never act. For example Friends of Europe just released a paper about social media . Frankly I found it pointless, uninteresting, and six years too late.

In the globalized future hesitation is dead, improvisation is king, and competition will be fierce…

Thinking about the “social media experts” statement further, I concluded it wasn’t that  online monitoring wasn’t useful for their situation, but it’s use would have created a real-time approach. This is  the antithesis of institutional process Europe is way too familiar and comfortable with.  And incentive for the people working in the institutions wasn’t there either.

In the USA, competition has led to campaigns and politics becoming a  science. And voting rates + political involvement have gone up. 

The 2012 campaigns featured natural language processing, text mining, sentiment analysis, and data scientists. These technologies will marginalize every medium and word. There was  no room for “educated guessing”. This is efficient, saves time and  money, plus leaves the politicians to focus on empathizing more with the electorate. Forward to the EU. The system is not competitive. The money is provided by the public, and the European Commission is in charge of mobilizing people in a non-political way, which is inherently very, very difficult.

The future will embrace non-understanding, chaos and real-time data, you don’t get the luxury of writing a 10,000 word strategy paper. At present the EU mindset is not equipped to handle this transition. It  must remember if it wants to  hang out with future technology, it has to first quit talking, and ask it out on a date.

Ciao, CT

Making “Corporate Culture” without the parentheses.

Much of this post was taken from a comment I wrote on LinkedIn in which I talked about vision and corporate culture (http://goo.gl/UIwUv). While a lot has been said of “corporate culture”, most of the time this is under the guise of  CSR reforms and other similar bullshit jargon. Being a data man who relies on sound principles, I fully agree that an internal focus from leadership is essential. For change that “takes” there needs to be an internal process and protocol set that reinforces the change in addition to clear incentives and goals. In other words, make it so you can’t get out of it. It’s also important to remember that setting out and visualizing a corporate culture is often times different than building a sustainable and profitable culture that makes bleeding edge solutions and products that people and companies want to buy.

What I find painfully obvious, and a huge risk to building a sustainable corporate culture that breeds future relevance, is that lack of perspective and group thinking tend to build off one another. These are the banes of any culture seeking to be relevant and innovative in the highly competitive, interconnected, but often times different enough world.

Think about this: The majority of leaders and directors come from the same schools, have the same frame of mind and generally have had an upward linear career path that was safe. They went to the best schools, got good grades and were very smart. While intelligence and capability are no doubt quality prerequisites and parts of the solution, companies will  inherently lack “grit” and suffer opportunity loss for the intellectual capital gained from it (Good article on grit http://goo.gl/W8Dxj) . Ultimately, the perspective that is essential for good decision making is affected (McKinsey; Kahneman and Klein article on this http://goo.gl/0bFcC).  I find grit and perspective to be the main bottle necks in building a company culture that embraces disruption and leverages it fast, the holy grail of most of this research.  So with that I challenge leaders to step up and get real with developing “corporate culture” legitimately (diverse/non group think environment) so it isn’t in parentheses as it often is.

Bring in fuck-ups so you don’t fuck up. People you might not be comfortable with and you don’t get right away. They might not have gone to the right schools, and might be a bit crazy, but have succeeded in unique ways that make you question your job, skills and thinking. You might find you are not relevant. This is obviously scary to people, but it’s necessary to motivate them into learning new skills, in addition to creating a “check down” in the corporate process that maintains innovation and relevance.

Thoughts – SWOT away.. CT