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Know Thyself

April 19, 2018
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Are we entering an era of data-ism? David Brooks in the New York Times brought the term into wide circulation in 2013.  Yuval Harari, in his book Homo Deus, depicts a data-ist future in which humans become subservient to data, eroding what we consider free will.  In the Financial Times, Harari writes, “If you don’t like this, and you want to stay beyond the reach of the algorithms, there is probably just one piece of advice to give you, the oldest in the book: Know thyself.”

Knowing oneself is a big theme in our work with clients.  Over the years, we have shown how institutions pursuing widely differing business models can be successful.  They know themselves.  They have a model and make it work, via a leadership-crafted strategy and people-led execution, facilitated by technology.  Culture is what holds this together.  If you remember high school biology,  a culture is a medium that nurtures cells to grow.

Nowadays, there is a certain triad of data work that we and others speak of in various words but always meaning the same thing:  1) manage data; 2) analyze it, and 3) act on the resulting insights.  All of this is indeed critical -- and it is a field in which technology is moving fast.  We are riding that technology wave.  However, we would never reduce the running of a bank or credit union to an algorithm.  It is the humans we work with who chose their model, build their strategy, and execute.  It is humans who choose where to bank.  This is why we do collaborative workshops, strategic planning, and marketing advisory work.

I’ll close by repeating the maxim, “Know thyself.”  For us and our clients, this comes down to building a fact base through research and analytics, crafting strategy based on who you and your customers are, and executing with people in addition to technology.  As time progresses, there is no doubt that the analytics will be more connected to the marketing technology.  For this, the triad of managing, analyzing, and acting on data is indeed critical.  It’s just that it takes place in a broader context of an institution’s culture.  Until we are all data-ists, we need to be the best humans and leaders we can be.     

This blog was co-authored by David Irwin and Fabio Biasella.