Change / transformation Leadership Management / Strategy

The ultimate litmus test: Does it fit our culture?

We’ve got a Big Data problem in this country, and here it is: Most businesses just don’t get it.

They want to get it. They know they’re supposed to get it. They’re trying like hell to get it. But they don’t.

In fact, they can’t.

Businesses are spending billions upon billions of dollars on data-driven solutions, but according to a recent Capgemini Consulting report, only 8 percent of them say their Big Data projects have been “very successful.”

Why? According to ReadWrite reporter Matt Asay, most businesses see Big Data as a technology problem — and they couldn’t be more wrong.

“(T)he biggest cause of failure, even if not acknowledged as such, is that most enterprises simply don't have a culture of data-centricity,” Asay writes. “At best, they treat ‘Big Data’ as a discrete project with a definitive completion date. As such, they're not set up to succeed.”

Put another way, most companies are stuck in the past. They operate under outdated, irrelevant business models that can’t possibly take into consideration something as mind-numbingly transformational as Big Data. They’re demanding that Big Data work like they do, and then can’t understand why it won’t.

We’re seeing the same thing with social media. Businesses everywhere are convinced they have to “do social media,” and they’re spending huge amounts of time, money, and energy to do so. What they don’t understand is that success with social media means more than being on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It means being a social organization, one that’s devoted unconditionally to building relationships and serving others. It’s a question of culture: If you’re a social organization, you’ll get social media. If you’re not, you won’t.

So it goes with Big Data. If you’re a data-centric organization that’s built on managing, interpreting, and using transparent data to solve problems, Big Data will be a breeze. If you’re not, “doing Big Data” will likely be a frustrating and painful endeavor.

This applies to so much more than social media and Big Data. The success of any transformational initiative depends not on the tools we use, but on whether that initiative mirrors the values of our organizations.

Perhaps our search for answers should depend less on what we want to do and more on who we are … and who we want to be.


William D. Sheridan