Exploring how data and technologies improve professional performance.
Unlocking Data to Change the Way We Work: Becoming a Quantified Executive
Moving from personal to professional, how data-driven performance measurement will create a new generation of quantified executives. Read more ...
MAY 14, 2020
Unlocking Data to Change the Way We Work: Becoming a Quantified Executive
(Note: This is the first in a series of blue sky pieces I hope to do to explore the possibilities around the idea of a “quantified executive,” especially in light of responding and recovering from a global pandemic. While I’m not a behavioral scientist and realize there are plenty of considerations to be had, as a technologist I want to start a conversation to help ethically develop this type of technology and data streams.Additionally, I want to be clear that in this first piece I see these ideas as a diagnostic explicitly for one’s professional growth and not in terms intended for organizations which could be used to micro-manage actions and behaviors or used as a form of workplace surveillance.)
We live in a world in which we are increasingly measuring and quantifying our personal lives, from exercising and meditation to how we drive and our spending habits. We now know: how many steps we take each day; how often we speed in our cars; and how much money we spend on eating out. Data provides insights into our well-being and helps us to live a better life.
We’re gradually learning that the more inputs we have, the better we understand the outcomes of our choices. And empowered with data, we can stop bad habits and learn/improve good habits. So why do we lack similar data-driven insights into our professional lives? Is it possible for us to create a self-perpetuating system of learning that helps us bring our best selves to our work every day?
Currently, we still rely on relatively traditional inputs in our professional development efforts: time and task tracking, project outcomes (sales, revenue, etc.), performance reviews (self-assessments, 360-degree, etc.), and the interactions and feedback of our colleagues. These data sets tend to be associated with our overall performance and outcomes --not necessarily granular data points associated with a specific action or behavior.
As a result, there seems to be an opportunity to fill in the gaps with more granular and diagnostic insights into our professional lives. And now as our work environments are changing as a result of responding and recovering from a global pandemic, these traditional methods will become strained. So as more of us are working remotely and integrating digital technologies into our workflows, there are opportunities to discover new ways to use data to propel our professional development.
Just as we rely on data to assess our personal lives, we should seek data to learn more about the actions we perform to accomplish our work. Here are a few questions to start with as we consider what type of job-related data to capture:
How do we increase the efficiency of our time during the work day and track the contributions we make during that time (how does the data change on-site versus remotely; how do we connect project ideation to project completion/outcomes)?
How do we analyze the effectiveness of our communication--from emails to meetings--with others directly and in groups (how much time spent; what’s the tone and sentiment of our participation; who’s contributing the most, not enough)?
How do we use these performance indicators to make ourselves a better and more trusted leader, communicator, and/or colleague or mentor (how is it collected; where is it displayed; how do we measure progress/success; who has access to the data)?
Now that we’ve framed some of the larger questions we want to explore, let’s find the ways we can capture, analyze, and gain insights into data associated with our daily professional routines. Areas for us to explore: time and productivity, communications, and leadership. By doing so, we gain insight into how we spend our time throughout the work day and provide insights into patterns of how we do our work (like drafting documents or the time it takes to reply to emails). Gaining insights into this type of data enables us to know our value--both in terms of how much our time is worth and what skills/activities are most valuable to our professional efforts.
Up to this point, I’ve laid out how I plan to explore the ways in which we can find and utilize data in an individual manner. However, I wanted to take a brief moment to lay out the idea of extending the exploration into possible communal usage. For instance, is it possible to harness the power of playful competitiveness that helps drive our professional development and business process efficiencies while also helping us to virtually “win” against our colleagues at different tasks or goals? Could a platform take these various inputs and allow us to challenge colleagues in reaching inbox zero? Or having one of the lowest email reply times?
Just as the quantified self became more integrated into the collective performance with others (e.g., running apps allowing friends to compete in virtual marathons) it would be interesting to explore the possibilities as it relates to one’s professional performance. And as Grammarly does with vocabulary usage, we could see insights provided through the anonymized comparison of like group behaviors and activities. Imagine an art director being able to see how their time in daily meetings compared to other art directors around the world.
Ultimately, the ideas I’m presenting here are meant to think about how the actions we take each day could be translated into a data point that provides an input we could examine to better understand our outputs within the workplace. With each new data point, we start to build a holistic view of our performance. So as we’ve come to learn how our sleep, fasting, meditation, and exercise affects our overall health and well-being. We want to find the information that can serve us in the same way in our professional lives.
That’s not to say that seeking out and defining data parameters to more empirically measure our workplace performance should result in us becoming solely data-driven regarding our careers. Just like in other areas where access to data has given us greater control over our lives, it should be one consideration amongst many. Ultimately it’s all part of striking a balance.
Robert Michael Murray is a digital innovator, senior strategist, brand builder, and storyteller across a variety of industry sectors for major brands, agencies, and public figures. Currently, he serves as a partner at CMPFYR and Quathletics leading their digital and social innovation efforts helping creators, brands, and agencies deliver solutions that drive greater value and experiences audiences love. Contact him for an industry briefing, strategy work, or speaking opportunities.
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(Note: This is the first in a series of blue sky pieces I hope to do to explore the possibilities around the idea of a “quantified executive,” especially in light of responding and recovering from a global pandemic. I’m not a behavioralist scientist and realize there is plenty of considerations in developing this type of technology and data streams. Additionally, I want to be clear that in this first piece I see these ideas as a diagnostic explicitly for one’s professional growth and not in terms intended for organizations use which could be used to micro-manage actions and behaviors or used as a form of workplace surveillance.)
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