There’s incredible energy right now around the topic of data and data analytics. Schools are falling all over themselves to offer degrees and certificates in data science. No one wants to be left behind.
Is this really the path to enduring success for businesses and individuals?
No doubt technology will play a critical role in the future, and using data to drive decisions is strategically essential.
However, I hear something quite different when I ask senior leaders what their businesses most need: They want individuals who know the questions to ask that can properly direct the analytical resources and who can interpret and tell the story from the data. In short, they need broad-based people who can lead in a data oriented world.
The essential skill in business today is functional dexterity:
The ability to move with ease across the major disciplines, and the skill to combine them to see unique patterns and to make bold decisions.
Are you as comfortable in an accounting and statistics discussion as you would be in one about sales and marketing? How about detailed operating or technology presentations? Does your team display this type of breadth, or are you constantly vetting proposals that completely ignore some aspect of the business?
There’s no shortcut to developing this form of agility.
It requires a strong educational foundation and meaningful assignments in each discipline. No other way truly understands the thought processes and business drivers.
A few years ago, LinkedIn sought answers on how to become an executive. They looked at the profiles of more than 450,000 members. After developing a complicated regression model, they discovered that the answer was pretty simple — work in as many job functions as possible.
Speaking from personal experience ...
Many years ago I was operating as a highly valued finance expert. As the outgrowth of a novel development process, I was transferred to run a large manufacturing plant. I quickly learned that there was nothing I could add to help solve the pressing problems of the day.
At that moment, everything about leadership changed for me — how I built and engaged with my team, where I spent my time and chose to weigh in, and how I framed and thought about issues. This move laid the foundation for decades of success in challenging general management roles. David Epstein says it best in his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World:
The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyper-specialization.
What are you doing to build these types of experiences into your leadership development efforts?
What steps are you taking to get out of your comfortable area of expertise and jump into unfamiliar territory?
Join the conversation on LinkedIn
Thursday and Friday, December 5 and 6, 2019
Facilitated by our CEO, Jeff Anderson.