Which one would you rather be?

There are two kinds of employees:

  • Those who react to the day-to-day issues, and those who prevent them from occurring in the first place
  • Those who make themselves indispensable (mainly by retaining knowledge), and those who make their knowledge available (ensuring the organization’s sustainability)
  • Those who go fast by going alone, and those who go far by nurturing a culture of collaboration
  • Those who get things done, and those get things right
  • Those who get comfy in the status quo, and those who face challenges head-on
  • Those who set the bar, and those who choose to see no bar

One would survive, but the other will thrive. Which one would you rather be?

Social data interpretation: The human factor

Research claim that A full 90% of all the data in the world has been generated over the last two years. This tsunami of digital data have brought along incredible insights but also many many headaches. One of the most prominent challenges relates to the inferences we draw from these data. Kate Crawford argues in “The Hidden Biases in Big Data” on Harvard Business Review that “We give numbers their voice, draw inferences from them, and define their meaning through our interpretations. Hidden biases in both the collection and analysis stages present considerable risks, and are as important to the big-data equation as the numbers themselves.” O’Reilly Radar’s Mike Loukides stresses, in “Data Skepticism“, that “even when you have unlimited data, you have to be very careful about the conclusions you draw from that data. It is in conflict with the all-too-common idea that, if you have lots and lots of data, correlation is as good as causation.”

This particularly strikes a nerve when it comes to Social data (and Social Network Analysis). You must have, at least once, come across titles such as “Social Networks are making us anti-social” or “Facebook causes divorce” or “Twitter moods help predict stock markets” etc. This might reflect a mere misinterpretation of the original studies (causation sells way better than correlation as the comic promptly illustrates) or a defect in the analysis and interpretation processes of said studies. We have a tendency to jump into such conclusions because our minds react better to narratives and “because” is a good ideas’ connector.

When examining the virality of content in social networks, a tweet for instance, the observed contagion phenomena is often explained through ‘Peer influence’. It could be the case, but it’s good to stop and think ‘Maybe the answer isn’t that simple’, maybe there are alternative explanations. Sinan Arial, an associate professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, delivers a compelling talk about social contagion and highlights just how Homophily (the tendency of similar people to bond together) is a viable explanation for some diffusion phenomena often attributed to peer-influence.

When stressing how ‘Big Data’ (Social Data) will revolutionize business or how ‘visualization will save big data’, vendors fail to stress these interpretation issues (which is understandable). Human intervention is an omnipresent part of the conception and analysis process. And unless our analysts (or data scientists if you like) are open minded enough to consider alternative explanations, or we come to find more appropriate models, we might just be digging ourselves into a much bigger hole.

“Everything is connected” – A paradigm to live by

Image

Source: Tv Show “Touch” revolves around the idea that everything is connected.

While I was doing some  much needed winter cleaning of my laptop, I found the transcript of this talk I did two years ago (if memory serves) and it tackled how, in today’s interconnected world, It takes a network-paradigm to thrive. As it’s resolutions season, although I’m not a big fan of the whole ritual, I thought I’d share an excerpt to take into account while forming this year’s big plan. *Turning sleeves up* (And by the way, Have a blessed and productive 2014!)

“I’ve become convinced that how networks work has become an essential 21st Century literacy.” ~Harold Rheingold

In the Era of interconnectedness that we are witnessing today, we belong to many many networks And weaving various network is the key to thrive. That is why to my sense, brokers (people who tie together otherwise disconnected people and leverage what is called weak ties)  are actually what we can call great network players. And here is why.

Rene Fourtou once said that “Shock comes when different things meet. It’s the interface that is interesting”. We learn most from people who don’t resemble us. Great ideas come from cross-pollination, a combinatory process that remixes ideas from different backgrounds to give birth to novel ones. How much exposure you have to various ideas determines how creative you can be. So when brokers play the role of interfaces between groups they are actually getting exposure to different ideas, which causes a shock, and a shock causes a spark, and spark gives birth to disruptive ideas. Brokers are creative!

Brokers are Problem solvers. People connected across these groups, who cross those gaps, are more familiar with alternative ways of thinking and behaving. They can juggle and appreciate divergent outlooks and multiple realities. They know that answers don’t lie within. Hence, they are more prone to have a vision of options otherwise unseen.

Brokers are Change makers. A Network Weaver is someone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides). Network Weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there’s potential for mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups.

Creative, innovative, problem solver, change maker. Who wouldn’t want to be all this. But how Do we get to that? How do we become network weavers? It really start by having a network mindset. The “me” attitude should be replaced with a “we” attitude which fits in the networked ecosystem we live in today.

Reaching out of your bubble: Going to event outside your normal sphere can enhance your exposure to new ideas. If you are a techy, try going to modern art expositions, literature events etc. Mingle with people with social science, philosophy, quantum mechanics backgrounds. The furthest you go outside that filter bubbleyou unconsciously locked yourself into, the better chances you have to come out with unique ideas. 

Always look for fresh blood: we are people of habit, we seek the comfort of familiar faces, of people who share our world view. There is nothing wrong with that. Greatest opportunities of growth though come from reaching out and connecting with those whose views are very different than ours. Intellectual diversity is a great creativity catalyst. Let’s then make it a point not to shun away from those who challenge us intellectually. 

Never miss a chance for a new experience: Spend your money wisely. Material things have a short life span, experiences on the other hand are life-long companions. Make it a point to try a new experience whenever the chance presents itself. An Arabic class? A travel to a multicultural destination? Anything that widens your range of interests is welcome.

Leverage the power of the web: In the words of Tapscott “The web, -indeed the world- is your stage, so get ready to deliver your star performance”.  Go out there and shine!

Each network you reach out to gives you access to a whole new reality you may have been oblivious to. The more exposure you get, the more your mind expands and the more creative you can be.