Living in a Data Driven World


In Kevin Kelly’s TED presentation (2016), he reminded us that many previous technological advancements were predictable.  That is to say the general concept was predictable; however, the specific technologies that emerge were nearly impossible to predict.  Kelly offered the idea that the creation of mobile phones was predictable but the idea of smartphones and the ways they are used today was not.  As leaders, it is vital for us to be aware of emerging technologies and how they can be best utilized.  Having the latest and greatest is not the objective or the measure of success, but truly utilizing them to maximize the advancement of the organization to the fullest will be the measurement of success.

The advancement of technology has given us a plethora of information and data.  Most of this information and data can be at our fingertips.  David Weinberger (2011) questioned, “if the networking of knowledge is making us smarter or stupider.”  Though somewhat contradictory to my previous week’s blog, the emergence of technology can improve our abilities and move our teams forward; it is capitalizing and harnessing of the power of the technology that is the difference maker.  Kelly (2016) explained why smart cars could benefit us by not driving like a human.  Smart cars are not distracted or emotional.  They can process information more quickly as humans as well.  The distraction comment Kelly made struck me as something worth noting.  When I think about advancements in technology, I think of how very little we do to utilize the technology to its fullest.  Returning to the conversation of Google discussed in recent weeks, Google can be a powerful tool, but it is also easy to be lost and taken down a rabbit hole only to never return to the reason you were using Google in the first place.  I see this being something we, as leaders need to try to help our organizations avoid.

I reflect on my early days in higher education as a freshman admission counselor.  The majority of communication and interaction I conducted with students and families was in person, on the phone (an actual landline in the office or by using a calling card at home), or by mail.  Email was used, but sparingly.  As time went on, the development of cellphones, email, and the internet vastly changed the landscape.  Texting and social media are all now additional ways to communicate with students.  Admission offices followed corporate sales teams’ lead with the creation and implementation of Communication Relationship Management (CRM) systems for the specific use of recruiting student.  A 2014 Hanover Research submission offered market trends and research on the use of technology by institutions of higher education.  Two-year-old research can be considered old by technology advancements standards, but the themes of the research still hold true.  Colleges and universities are looking to data and analytics to drive recruitment.

Schools often pay for services such as retargeting to market to students and use data collected when students visit their website.  Many schools use the data to create personalized PURLS and individualized digital viewbooks.  With each of these different initiatives the need for managing data and using data analytics to drive decisions is becoming a challenge.  Hanover Research (2014) stated, “Getting a better handle of this data is a new area of concentration for colleges and universities.”  Weinberger (2011) presented Amazon as an example of how the effective analyzation of data can lead to meeting the needs of a customer.  He went on to add we need to continue to learn how to evaluate information and knowledge.


Forbes (2016) offered Gartner’s 16 new technologies, and of the 16, three were focused on data or analytics (Data Broker PaaS, Personal Analytics, and Smart Data Discovery).  Interestingly enough, Wikipedia’s list of emerging technology mentioned very little about new technologies focused on data management.  On the other hand, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, & Byers offered a different view.  At the Internet Trends 2016 Code Conference, Mary Meeker mentioned data and data management numerous times, focusing on data-driven business, data collection, data networking, and data leveraging.  In the presentation, data leveraging was described as the “next big wave.”  Looker CEO Frank Bein as quoted by Meeker said, “Data is moving from something you use outside of the workstream to becoming a part of the business app itself.  It’s how the new knowledge worker is actually performing their job.”

Data and data management will need to be a priority for leaders to effectively adapt to the ever-changing and evolving world of technology.  Jobs and duties will continue to change with the emergence of new technologies and industries such as higher education will be no different.  Leaders will need to change existing positions or create new positions to effectively manage and utilize data to drive institutions forward.  Leaders will also need to evolve and adapt as well.  Relying on others to understand big data and analytics will not be enough.  Being a driver of change and the use of data will be a requirement.






New Challenges: Ethical Use of Social Media


According to Statista, there were 2.14 billion social media users in 2015.  They estimate that by 2020, there will be a total of 2.95 billion users.  It seems social media use by individuals is constant.  Some organizations have tried to curtail social media use by blocking employees from accessing social media accounts from company computers.  Unfortunately, many individuals access social media platforms by using their cell phoneForbes (2015) suggested that as a part of the debate of whether or not social media in the workplace is a bad thing, there may be some good aspects such as using social media to improve company communication and brand.  Others suggest social media can end an individual’s career if one is not careful as to what they “like” or post.  CareerBuilder recently reported that 18 percent of employers have reported firing someone due to something the employee posted on social media.  These topics have opened the door for new debates around the topic of ethics and the use of social media.

Terrll Bynum (2015), suggested that the onslaught of computer related ethics is relatively new, becoming a larger topic in the late 1940s.  Bynum commented that the topic and research has grown more prevalent in not only in the United States but globally.  The emergence of social media usage throughout the world leads to a slew of potential ethical debates.  Can differing beliefs and cultures be accepted?  Bynum pointed to the Principle of Freedom as a foundation to computer ethics but how can we agree on ethics when not every culture agrees with the concept of freedom?  How do we align global ethics within the social media world when there is a difference in laws and what is viewed as right and wrong?  With the global use of Facebook, for example, using others contributions, pictures, and music might be considered breaking copyright or infringement laws in the United States but may not be considered breaking the law in other countries.


In addition to the challenges of competing ideas of what is ethical globally, Forbes (2011) illustrated five ethical dilemmas companies and organizations need to be aware of in regards to social media usage.  The ethical issues range from paying individuals and organizations to endorse company goods and services to accessing consumer information and perhaps compromising the privacy of the consumer.  The conversations of what personal or consumer information should be considered free game and what should be private have become increasing blurred.  Ethical questions arise from not only what companies should have access to but also what ethically (and perhaps lawfully) they should be able to use.  Each of us leaves a digital footprint when we access various websites and access social media.  It is common for companies to use social media activities to better understand our needs and wants and then market to those needs and wants.  For consumers, in some ways, this can be wonderful.  You might find helpful products or services being offered to you because of your footprint, but the ethical line of your privacy is also in question.  Is it right that anyone could have access to your information?  As mentioned previously, employers have accesses to your information, thoughts, and feelings as well.

The Wall Street Journal (2014) presented interesting perspectives on the employer and employee relationship with social media.  In 2013, a CareerBuilder survey indicated 39 percent of employers utilized search social media pages to research potential candidates.  In the same survey, it was reported 43 percent found something in their social media search that convinced the employer not to pursue the candidate.  Companies and organizations may argue that the information is public and should be used to not only ensure good hiring but also assist in monitoring current employees.  In the Wall Street Journal article, Nancy Flynn commented that monitoring employee’s social media is a necessity.  Flynn stated that is necessary to avoid serious issues such as lawsuits.  She also mentioned that social media submission could be subpoenaed and used as evidence in cases.

The digital media and the social footprint we all leave are nearly unavoidable.  Today, the access to our personal information, thoughts, and feelings are available to nearly anyone that wants to view the information or use it.  If it is available, does it make it ethical to use it?  That is the ongoing debate.  Pew Research reported in 2016, 86 percent of Internet users have taken some steps to try to remove or hide some of their footprints.  A portion of the concern is many of us are not even aware of the extent or depth of the footprint we are leaving and how it could help us, or more importantly hurt us.  With the increasing use of social media, it is difficult to imagine ever being able to turn around and reduce or eliminate our footprints.  And with the continued growth of social media, the ethical discussions and dilemmas will rage on.

Disconnected or Always Connected?

ball-and-chainFor better or for worse, gone are the days when today’s workforce can leave the office (that is if they even still have a physical office) and be disconnected from their work.  As discussed in previous week’s blogs, we are increasing “on” 24/7.  We are connected by our smartphones, tablets, and laptops that we seemly carry around with us no matter where we go.  It is a blessing and a curse in many ways.

As the use of technology in the workplace has increased, so has the need for employees to adapt new skills and technological skills.  The Top Ten Online Colleges released an article outlining the ten most important work skills that will be necessary by 2020.  One of the six drivers of the change mentioned in the article points to the emergence of technology and how it is enhancing and extending individual’s abilities.  Furthermore, technology has given many employees the ability to work from anywhere.  David Weinberger suggested the advancements have created networks that have given individuals the opportunity to contribute meaningfully and eliminated, or at least reduced the hierarchical thinking that ideas only can come from the top.  Weinberger went on to mentioned that this new world also provides challenges as networks and the internet provides a plethora of information, some useful and some not.  The open access of the internet offers employees the opportunity to research and pull ideas.  One of the necessary skills needed by 2020 addressed this challenge by suggesting that sense-making will be a key skill.  Having the ability to analysis the information and have a deep understanding of the vital portion of information will be key.  This skill is especially difficult as the internet is filled with many claiming to be experts.

Harold Jarche (2013) offered the idea that management will not be necessary as networked workers emerge.  Though I do not agree, the point that managers, particularly micro managers, can slow networks is viable.  As I discuss last week in my blog, we must all adapt.  Managers will need to change their approach as well and find ways to cultivate ideas offered by networked workers.  Offering employees the flexibility to complete their jobs in ways other than being in the office 8-5 each day is appreciated and typically an employee expectation.


As technology continues to evolve and changes our work environment, employers will need to find ways to meet the needs of employees to maximize job satisfaction and retention.  Telework or telecommuting has become increasing popular.  Ann Bednarz offered research both in support of telework as well as information that indicates the negatives associated with the option as she discussed Yahoo’s decision in 2013 to ban telework with the company.  Within the article written by Bednarz, the Telework Research Network argued that overall organizational productivity increases when employees are allowed to telework.  On the other hand, suggests that teleworkers are less productive and have numerous distractions to contend with.  It seems that there are valid arguments on both sides for a host of the issues to consider; however, it seems as though the success of telework or telecommuting depends on both the employee and employer approach.  The use of video conferencing, document sharing, social media, and a host of other technologies have allow telecommuting employees a variety of ways to stay networked.


Rob Stanton, a Major in the United States Army, as quoted by Weinberger (2011) said, “In today’s world, it’s not enough to be able to do the job of the person above you. You have to do 18,000 different jobs.”  The jobs of today are endlessly changing.  The ever-changing world of technology is the main contributor to the evolution positions in the workforce.  Aaron Smith (2014) interviewed a numerous leaders from a variety of industries regarding AI, robotics, and technology and the effects on future jobs.  Though most agree there will be more jobs created than eliminate, the consensus is that some types of jobs will no longer be needed or will be valued less due to technological advancements.  It was mentioned numerous times that it is imperative for the workforce to be trained and educated in such a way that specific skills and knowledge are not the focus, but rather the ability to think critically and creatively as well as have the ability to adapt to evolving situations and environments.

As technology continues to make our lives better by offering of automation to tedious and repetitive tasks, we must not allow technology to get in the way of things that only humans can do.  I believe that meaningful relationship building skills are being damaged by our society’s reliance on technology.  The article I mentioned regarding the work skills needed in 2020 and the article by Smith, each highlighted the importance of social intelligence or the ability to connect in meaningful ways with others.  This is one of the few areas that cannot be replaced by technology.

Adapt or Cease to Exist

In a world that is constantly changing, organizations and their employees must find ways to adapt to the changes, or ideally, be innovative.  Higher Education tends to lag behind other industries, hides behind traditions, and grasps to hold on to the past.  While it may be easy to see some traditions of higher education remain, colleges and universities are finding that lecture halls with a professor professing to the masses are becoming less and less common.  Modalities continue to change as online education, competency-based education, and badges continue to develop and change the landscape of higher education.  Many institutions of higher education will be forced to change or risk being passed by.

David Weinberger’s video described the need to do what we can as leaders to anticipate future needs and do our best to narrow the possibilities.  Using technologies to do so aids in this pursuit.  For quite some time, tuition rates have increased at an alarming rate and students, and families have questioned if the Return on Investment (ROI) is worth it.  Are the astronomical costs associated with attending a 4-year institution really worth it!  Colleges and universities leaders need to be prepared to be innovative and creative in order to find ways to create value and ROI that reflect the costs students and their families are paying.

Leaders need those that can champion ideas of innovation to move new programming and delivery of education forward.  Wirearchy describes ways that leaders can be mindful of how technology can connect networks and individuals and create a culture of sharing information in a meaningful way.  Furthermore, provide an environment based no real-time feedback to assist in adapting to an environment of constant change.

Gartner, Inc. stated that as we move into the future, technology will play the role of leading innovation instead of merely playing a supporting role.  The Gartner article went on to point out that technologies continue to effective products and services organizations offer.  Technology has also changed jobs and how jobs are performed.  Employees need to be prepared to adapt to changes and continuously improve their skills and knowledge around technologies used and evolving.  Dishman (2015) stated that the skills should be “complementary to technology.”

As the demand and opportunities for online education have grown, the need for staff and faculty to evolve and change with it has become necessary.  The long-form writing of books discussed by David Weinberger (2011) and the delivery education in such a fashion is nearly obsolete.  Gartner’s prediction in 2010 of a workplace that has no walls and a 24/7 work week may not come entirely true, yet is more fact than fiction.  In today’s society, we are connected instantly every moment of our lives.  If we are not “on” the impression is we do not care.  Faculty and staff availability expectations are nearing this level of always being on and available.  Those schools that can deliver on this need are those that will thrive.  We can be opposed to this trend like we may be to online education versus face-to-face education, or traditional education versus competency-based education and badges, but reality is, as leaders we need to find ways to adjust to the needs of those we serve.  If we do not adapt, we may cease to exist.