How Big Data Creates False Confidence, A New Map for Business in Africa, How Giving Up Refined Sugar Changed My Brain + more

How big data creates false confidence.  That’s a doozy of a headline, especially with all the press about how magical and glorious and wonderful big data is.  Sure, we may have a hard time parsing any usable information out of that data sometimes because there is just so much of it, but still, the truth is out there buried in the data, no?  Nautilus has a great blog entry this week about the assumptions we make about big data, a term that can’t even really be defined.  We just know that the data sets are huge and they have patterns buried into them if we can just find them.  So if we do find them, they must be valuable, and right.  That can create a false sense of security, so always remember what Samuel Clemens said: “there’s lies, damn lies, and then there’s statistics.”  The same holds true for big data.

How do leaders create and use networks?  Back in 2007 Harvard Business Review answered that question and it’s a good one for a refresher.  The good meat in this article is around how to be successful at strategic networking, an area that consumes so much energy and the risk around getting bogged down in operational networking.

strategy+business gives a great overview of the current business climate in Africa, highlighting the need for companies to understand the local context in order to be successful.  Africa is home of seven of the world’s megacities and the World Bank expects consumer spending to be US $2.2 trillion by 2030, but the continent is made up of 54 separate sovereign states that cover a vast range of cultures, languages, and people.  Along with that is this article from Quartz about how megacities are the world’s dominant, enduring structures.

As well, strategy+business put together a compendium of twenty questions for business leaders and some hints at answer to those questions, ranging from “how do we win” to “what is honorable.”  My favorite?  “What the hell is leadership.”

Fortune has an article this week about the 21st century corporations and our new business model.  To quote “Imagine an economy without friction—a new world in which labor, information, and money move easily, cheaply, and almost instantly.”  Along with that is the concept that you might be aware of – that the assets of most corporations in today’s day and age are the employees themselves.  The 21st-century corporation will be based more and more on the work of knowledge workers and ideas-based business across all sectors.  That has and will continue to lead to barriers to entry coming down.

One of the top ten leadership stories Fast Company published last year was about how Michael Grothaus gave up refined sugar and how it affected his brain.  I’ve done this a number of times before but haven’t been able to maintain it yet, but I’ve noticed the same issues he highlighted in his article: when refined sugar is in my diet, I’m crankier, I’ll make rash decisions, and I just feel stupider when I do, or at least not as clear headed as when I’m not ingesting it.  The detox isn’t much fun, but it’s a good read and something to consider, especially once you experience the veil of refined sugar lifting.

How good are we at employee recognition?  No, really, how good are we?  Have you paid attention to your own employee recognition program?  Is it a passive part of culture or is it something you are actively engaged in?  Well, for your consideration are a couple of articles: first, one about the top ten reasons why companies fail at employee recognition and then another on why managers fail in this area.  While you are looking at that, take a moment to look at the 2012-2013 Towers Watson paper on balancing employer and employee priorities.

We all believe we know how a successful business must be run, what rules it must adhere to.  Even as we look at all the startups out there, all the corporate giants, even mom and pop shops, we all end up falling into the same rules, the same structure either from day one or when we hit certain milestones.  Semco Partners didn’t. When he founded it, Ricardo Semler asked the simple question of what happens when you take away all of what expect (“the rules”) and just let people work.  Watch his TED talk to learn what did.

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