The Data Science Renaissance

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” -Michaelangelo

Renaissance means rebirth. A variety of factors, coming together at the same time, can spark a rebirth. In the analytics world, we are facing a confluence of factors: economic disruption, a great re-skilling, and unprecedented access to data. The combination of these factors is sparking the rebirth of data science, with the expert-led model a relic of the past. History is a great teacher, and demonstrates that this Renaissance is not all that dissimilar from the original.

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Suggesting a 'pilot' is a weakness

This was my observation on Twitter/LinkedIn a couple weeks ago:

Nearly everything I share in such forums is based on actual events/observations, not theory. I didn’t expect any reaction. 82 comments later, I clearly struck a nerve. The interesting thing is the dichotomy of reaction. A portion of people think I don’t understand design thinking, MVP’s, and experimentation. Another portion vehemently agree with my statement. Given the passionate debate, I felt it appropriate to clarify my thinking. The background for this starts with a couple core beliefs I hold.

Belief #1: The job of a business executive is to maximize return on invested capital.

Many companies are myopically focused on growth. Growth is wonderful, but in isolation it ignores the fact that the true value of a business is determined by the discounted value of its future cash flows. The future cash flows ultimately determine what can be distributed to shareholders, and they can be maximized by growth, but also by optimizing profit margins and capital efficiency.

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What I Read

I was speaking to a group earlier this week and someone asked me about my reading habits. I get this question somewhat frequently, and it's not an easy one to answer. My belief is that you have to start with things that you have a passionate interest in, and then see where that takes you. I have tried to force myself to read certain things/topics through the years, and it always fails, due to lack of sincere interest. This being said, I have developed a few consistent reading habits over the years, and here is a summary.

I find alot of my reading on Twitter. Here is who I follow. But again, follow people/things that interest you, to maximize your reading/learning. I use Pocket to save reading for later.

Wall Street Journal
Financial Times

The High Tech Strategist

GMO Letter
Greenlight Capital Letter

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Report
JPMorgan Chase Annual Report
Amazon Annual Report

People I Read About (or watch any speech they give)
Jim Chanos
Warren Buffett
Jamie Dimon
Howard Marks
Bob Iger
John Legere
Nick Saban
Urban Meyer
Jim Rogers
Ray Dalio
Clay Christensen
Nelson Peltz
Malcolm Gladwell
Bill Gurley
Mark Cuban
Marc Andreesen
Michael Mauboussin

Companies I Read About
3G Capital
Berkshire Hathaway
JPMorgan Chase

I try to read 1 book per week. Typically do not succeed. Here are my recent books read:

The Spirit of St. Louis (reading now)
Shoe Dog
Hellhound on His Trail
Monetizing Innovation
Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart
Extreme Ownership
American Icon
Double Your Profits in 6 months or less
Sam Walton: Made in America
Ben Franklin
A Short History of Nearly Everything
This Time It's Different
Medici Effect
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
MONEY Master the Game
The New Kingmakers
Franklin Barbecue
The Outsiders
Dream Big
10% Happier
The Everything Store
Nearing Home
The Year Without Pants
The Tao of Chip Kelly
The Leaders Code
The Energy Bus
Currency Wars
How Will You Measure You Life
Dethroning the King
Fooling Some People All of the Time

Everything Starts With Design — You Should, Too

“There is no such thing as a commodity product, just commodity thinking.” — David Townsend

Anthony DiNatale was born in South Boston. He entered the flooring business with his father in 1921 and began a career of craftsmanship and woodworking. In 1933, he founded DiNatale Flooring in Charlestown, working job to job, primarily in the northeast United States. In 1946, Walter Brown approached DiNatale and asked him to build a floor for a new basketball team to use. DiNatale quoted him $11,000 to complete the project, and the deal was struck.

DiNatale quickly went to work, knowing that he had to be cost-conscious to complete the construction, since he had bid aggressively to win the project. He gathered wood from a World War II army barracks and started building. He quickly noticed a problem: the wood scraps were too short for him to take his traditional approach to building a floor. So he began to create an alternating pattern, changing the direction of the wood pieces to fasten them together. He kept creating 5-foot panels, and when he had 247 of them, his work was completed.

Walter Brown was the owner of the Boston Celtics. When the Celtics moved into the Boston Garden in 1952, the floor commissioned by Brown in the year of their founding went with them. The floor was connected by 988 bolts and served as the playing surface for 16 NBA championships between 1957 and 1986.

DiNatale was a craftsman, an artist, a woodworker, but most prominently a designer. He made use of what he had and designed what would become the iconic playing surface in professional sports. The floor became a home-court advantage for the Celtics, as competitors complained about its dead spots and intricacies.

Design is enduring. Design is timeless. And, every once in a while, design becomes a major advantage.

Read the rest here.


"Don't confuse my kindness for weakness." - Joe Schutzman

I was a 26 year old consultant on my first real project in 2000, working for a client in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The project was a mess. We had very little subject matter expertise, even less leadership, and it was going the wrong direction. Joe Schutzman was one of the people that came to the rescue. He brought a sense of calm and composure, and the ability to simplify a complex situation. And, he taught me the difference between being principled and being stubborn.

I've known a number of stubborn people in my life, probably most notably my Grandfather. It doesn't make them bad people, it just makes them, well, stubborn. Sometimes principled people get confused for stubborn, because they are so tied to their belief system. But, there is a big difference.

Joe was flexible on details, but determined on direction. This applied in business, as well as his life. This is the essence of a principled life. He was the champion of the pirate spirt in our team at work. I believe it originally came from the quote, "I'd rather be a pirate, than join the Navy." Regardless of where it originated, it embodied his spirit of never accepting the status quo. He was the consummate transformation agent, which is not necessarily common in someone so principled. There is often beauty in contradictions.

Joe passed away this morning, with his family in Kansas City. He will be missed, as a colleague, friend, father, husband, and sibling. But, his impact will live on, setting the bar for all of us to live a principled life, yet never being afraid to disrupt the status quo. He will be missed by all that knew him.