The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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Misinterpreting Apple and Microsoft

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As a global community, we all hate Bill Gates.  Actually we all hate Microsoft.  While we might depend on things like Microsoft Outlook and the MS Office suite of products, most of us probably believe that they have a bit too much of a monopoly and probably have bullied around other companies to ensure that they have a strong foothold in their industry.  Alternatively, we all love Steve Jobs and Apple.  This guy has reinvented Apple and given us some great products with amazing usability.  Instead of the “blue screen of death” from Microsoft, we have the incredibly usable iPhone.  Apple is also all about community, and their technologies tend to have brought us closer together, creating now ubiquitous applications (also on Google Android phones) that help us better connect in real time.

But sometimes image and marketing is everything.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest philanthropic institutions in the world, providing funding for diverse programs in health , global economic development, and education.  Steve Jobs on the other hand had a foundation for about 15 months, but it was shut down after never doing much of anything.  In comparing the two business leaders, it appears that Gates is rather selfless in his charitable intentions, but Jobs (in the rare circumstances that he endorses a cause) only mentions a cause when it serves the purposes of Apple and the growth of his personal wealth.

It’s easy to look at something, especially a set of data, and be swayed by our own personal experiences with it.  We often have events or our relationships with the business provide specific opinions that may or may not be close to the truth.  In the Gates and Jobs example, we even have clean and quantitative data prove that Jobs is the better guy.  Apple has overtaken Microsoft in market capitalization, and therefore the consumers have voted, not for the big corporate giant providing software to big corporate giants, but to the provider of tools to everyday individual consumers.

I’m not arguing what set of technologies is more deserving of our approval in terms of market cap, but how these images inform our ability to interpret data in the absence of external influences.  The reason that I’m an advocate of business intelligence analysts that view data and operate in a function that is not touched by the externalities of the “real world” is that they can touch and feel the data with an objective eye.  Those of us who operate in business and business process can often be blinded by prior results that are not directly related to the data, but we think they are.  I’ve seen organizations completely disregard employee engagement surveys that identified terrible managers simply because productions or sales happened to be “hot.”  We’ve been influenced by circumstantial evidence that very senior managers can’t be “messed” with or that diversity data is better than it really is.  We’ve completely missed the mark on interpreting trend lines because we don’t have analysts who know how to look at data from a mathematical perspective.

At the end of the day, situational evidence is critical in how we interpret our version of reality.  In no way can we ignore this, but at the same time, we have to be able to see through it and objectify the data before we can reach a conclusion.  We can’t let our judgment around data be clouded by only what our perceived reality already is, because if we do, our role to the business as part of the decision support chain is completely irrelevant.

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