Doing the unstuck

No blog posts for a while. What happened? Has the Unicornsulting mission lead to that humanity has blossomed? Nope. I was just being stuck.

A couple of days ago, I had started to write on an article about measuring a culture of innovation and I was really excited. I was finally about to write something that would piss some people off. Exciting times. This would leave a mark. Some people would consider me dumber than a sack of hammers, which to me would be a “mission accomplished”.

But I ended up doing something that changed everything…
…I did some research.

Kalle the qual-head

Back in 2011 when my brain got soaked in design thinking, the world of qualitative data opened up to me. Contextual inquiry, and observations, note taking, story telling, quotes, affinity diagramming etc. I really embraced it all and forgot t.

My initial approach to the article was to attack the measurement culture as the strong proponent of qualitative data that I’ve become the past five years. I have laughed at quotes like “What gets measured gets managed” and seen measurements as a poor substitute for understanding complexity.

I’ve seen the really bad sides of quantitative data. As an example; Some organizations that measure things and then put these measurements as incentives for employees and managers leading to sub-optimization and incentivized organizational stupidity. It often leads to that all the cogs are spinning nicely but they don’t connect or drive in opposite directions creative massive frustration in the organization.

Kalle the quant-head

So what did Kalle the quant-head look like?

For about fifteen years I worked with engineering. The first five years as hardware engineer, the next as software engineer and then five years as systems engineer. As a hardware and software engineer I loved spending time in the lab and I used to love measuring stuff in order to figure things out. I was data driven, and data in my world was quantitative: Response time, signal levels, packet rates, interference levels, latency, CPU load, throughput, impedance, latency etc. These were the things that I used to understand the world.

All of my work yielded in several inventions that lead to patent applications. All driven from quantitative data.

I believed that this world was complex (this was before I started working with people and organizations more intentionally), but realize now that they were complicated rather than complex.

Opposites attract

So, back to writing the ranting article that never happened. Earlier this spring I ran into Google’s project Aristotle. Project Aristotle was a very ambitious research project to investigate what made a productive team. Google had tons of quantitative data and couldn’t find any pattern. It was first when it was combined with qualitative data that they started to find some really interesting patterns.

The last two years at Ericsson I was fortunate to share room with a very brilliant gentleman with a passion for big data and practical data analysis. We discussed data and project Aristotle briefly when being celebrated as soon to be ex-Ericsson employees earlier this week. He had also read project Aristotle and we shared the insight that the combo of quantitative and qualitative data was what made this really interesting.

Conclusion

Maybe I will piss someone off after all. After having synthesized all of this this, I realize that it is the combo of quant and qual that is interesting. So, if you are a purist qual-head ooh quant-head, you might find that the combo to be a preposterous idea.

Looking forward I feel excited to bring my old programming and excel wielding skills to use in combination with using qualitative data. Being data driven is far more than number crunching. Being able to work with qualitative and quantitative data might be my new ninja skill.

This might be totally non-revolutionary to some of you. I know that this is basic competence in doing research. However, I don’t have that educational background as an autodidact and I find it interesting how far out on the extremes that I have geeked out so I am looking forward to the synthesis of both approaches and what that will lead to in the future.

Three things that I am grateful for today

  1. Having control of my time. It is a double edged sword, but I find that it really keeps my stress level under control.
  2. Cats! I was feeling under the weather yesterday and decided to go home and get some sleep. After two hours with purring cats sleeping on my chest, I felt much better….and my t-shirt was lovingly covered in cat hair =).
  3. That I am feeling better today =).

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