Apr 21Liked by Benn Stancil

There are two things i hate about this post:

1) a giant picture of Jared Kushner looking like one of those creatures in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children :shudder:

2) Your uncanny ability to post something just as I am thinking about the topic (data culture) and make me question my priors and think different® about the problem at hand. It's really annoying. Thank you.

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Apr 21·edited Apr 21Liked by Benn Stancil

Love this! AMITJK - absolutely not! Your writing is thought provoking and forces introspection rather than leaving one disgruntled or upset. Case in point: your mention of Katie and her article. You used it as proof of your point here while also paying respect to her (if she feels disrespected then she should ask AITA about the situation!)

I reflect on your articles a lot after reading them.. it’s almost like the opening arguments for a court case that then unfolds internally over the next week or so.

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Apr 21Liked by Benn Stancil

I think the big difference between you and a Jared Kushner is: we know where you live.

Right here. In the trenches. Trying to build a startup, keep up with tech, make a positive dent in the world. If our industry goes belly up, you’ll have to flee the ship with the rest of us. You have skin in the game.

Thank you. That matters more than you can probably imagine.

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Apr 21Liked by Benn Stancil

In my modest capacity, I touched upon a very similar subject and compared it to the Illusion of Asymmetrical Insight.

People believe that their point of view benefits from a greater consensus, and it is the purest expression of that consensus. Stakeholders and Digital Analysts are both prone to this. Domain knowledge does not guarantee that someone is right, but neither is someone armed with data.

The challenge we face in Digital Analytics is stakeholders responding to our recommendations with "so, what?". They believe it lacks alignment with the business needs. I compare this diktat with someone who lost their keys and is looking only under the streetlight.

The idea I put forward is to implement something similar to what Google had for a while: employees spend 20% of their time on passion projects. What would happen when Digital Analysts have 20% of their time to analyse that weird trend that lacked alignment with business needs? A new product or service leading to a new revenue stream? A surprise cost reduction where people were happy with the status quo?

If anybody wants to read more on this, here I am about to shamelessly self-promote my content: Dancing In The Dark


I liked your idea of gamifying the actionable insight delivery. You could pit departments against each other as well. We had something similar at a previous employer about the regular training we had to take. I used go work at a bank. That sort of training is a regulatory requirement.

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Maybe you allude to that with the journalism paragraph as well. I think the gist of Data team's role is to make a vocal claim; it might be wrong; the world is, after all, very uncertain. But if the Data team does not make a vocal claim about the world - then who will? Middle management won't. Executives often have contradictory objectives within their jobs of leading people. Data people are the only ones who can afford to make vocal claims. But many do not!

At Looker I felt customers sometimes wanted to work with me just because I would tell them how things really are. They could not get this out of their teams, but could get the straight facts out of a vendor. So they paid for the vendor.

I don't think ChatGPT for Data is the answer to this. Making a vocal claim is not something you can get out of sponge filled with facts. It is a matter of having strong, at times, contrarian, opinions. And almost by definition, anything coming out of Machine Learning (Probabilistic) models is not contrarian.

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Apr 28Liked by Benn Stancil

the data quiz is a delight of a concept. would be curious if anyone has tried / succeeded

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Benn, really interesting essay, as usual.

I think it's valuable and value-adding for folks with an external perspective to come in armed with data, research, and first principles, but they need to come in with humility and an open mind.

For me, this is the essence of the cross-functional knowledge worker team: Folks who are experts (relatively speaking) in their niche, working together to uncover what needs to be done. It's why the marketing-background manager shouldn't decide whether the team should use RMSE or MAPE to measure the model's accuracy, and defer to the junior data scientist with two degrees in statistics. Why we listen to our user researchers explain how users feel about the new feature. And so on.


On the suggestion to turn data teams into a different kind of reporting team: I like the idea, but am not sure the data team would be the best owner for doing that work.

The data behind each story is presumably only a subset of the story itself, just like in the real news. Some stories are more about the data (weather reports, election forecasts, covid analyses), but there's many other types: Breaking news, topical buzzers, explainers, and feel-good or crowd-pleasing stories aimed at keeping engagement via entertainment.

I can see the data team being an integral part of this cultural transformation (that's the main thing it is for me), for example providing the tools for the internal comms team to weave data into their stories, and do so properly. Or for article-writing to be a task they have to do, but that lots of other teams also take part it.

If the data team's news reporting is detached from other comms initiatives (big transformations, new product launches, strategy updates, and so on), it seems easy for it to get sidelined or otherwise fall out of place. Just like any other data initiative shouldn't exist to serve a technical strategy detached from the business' goals, this too should be aligned with what the rest of the business is doing and caring about!

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Plot twist: enterprise Substack is the product and data teams will now be paid for via annual subscription

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Great starting hook -

Living in the Middle East and being opinionated about various things - I get it.

a couple of thoughts :

1. You can't understand the complexity of something like the Middle East or go language programming without having actually done it and lived in the environment for a while. Having said that - after you lived in Tel Aviv and then Jerusalem for a few years - you need to be able to go up to 20,000 feet and detach yourself from the feeds and neediness for likes and approbation.

In other words you need both first-hand context and detachment. Which is very hard.

2. We noticed that our clinical data users pretty much ignore the dashboards and get addicted to alerts. I know we can do better dashboards - but I think that the reason is context and timeliness.

By the time the events roll up thru a ELT process into a dashboard - it's too late.

Alerts have a narrow context and time window - 'This patient did not do that in the past 48 hours'

Tying this back to the Kushner metaphor - when you read some books and watch some youtube videos you don't have the context of having lived there or the timeliness of having been in Tel aviv next to Palestinian terrorist shooting people in a bar.

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One way that you're clearly not Jared Kushner is your opinions are known and they are public. If you're wrong, we can go back through your history of published work and tell that you were wrong. Who heard any of Jared's opinions? In fact, let me restate that: who heard what Jared Kushner even sounds like?

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Apr 21Liked by Benn Stancil

This is awesome. Great points plus you worked in Good Will Hunting and took shots at Jarad Kusher.

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I'm Danny Lieberman - sure. You can see my profile on LI

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