July 2011 Archives

Defining a Silo Buster

Pit stopI recently saw a job description that tells me I'm not the only one looking for the value that's lost when analytical methodologies keep to themselves. Change a few key words, and it becomes something that a lot more organizations could use. Maybe yours?

Cross-pollinating analytics
I really like the idea of learning from other fields, such as the physicians who used lessons from Formula One pit stops to improve patient transfers. Most of us aren't working on anything that is truly different; you just have to find the relevant lessons from unrelated fields. It sounds hard, but I think that opening your mind to the possibility is the step most people miss.

I use the metaphor of cross-pollination a lot when I talk with people about intelligence and analytics (cue a silo rant if you missed it). The short version is, I think the various analytics specialties are missing value when they reinvent each others' solutions and fail to learn from each other.

You can get a broader application of the concept from Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex. We work better when we don't try to do everything ourselves.

Hiring a silo-busting analyst
Breaking down some of those barriers is the idea behind AnalyticsCamp, so I was really pleased when I found this great job description at the CIA a few months ago (emphasis added):

As an Analytic Methodologist, you will have the opportunity to develop and apply analytic methods to add rigor and precision to intelligence analysis and collection. You will provide statistical, operations research, econometric, mathematical, or geospatial modeling support to Agency analysis, and you will incorporate your findings into a broad range of intelligence products. Agency analysts are encouraged to maintain and broaden their professional ties through academic study, contacts and attendance at professional meetings. They may also choose to pursue additional studies in fields relevant to their areas of responsibility.

Maybe I'm seeing what I want to see, but that looks like And not Or thinking to me (though I would like to see a longer list of methods). Notice the continuing development aspects, too. What would you think if we adapted it to business, changing the specific types of analysis to the specialties at work in business and added a few that could be at work?

Your company might not offer some of the specific perks of government work, but what are you doing to encourage your analysts to develop beyond the confines of their current specialties? Are you taking the opportunities to learn from other fields, both near and far?

Photo by curimedia.

About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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