Newsletter – July, 2013

On My Mind

This has been a great year for the field of Statistics. In 2012, the American Statistical Association in partnership with other statistical societies declared 2013 the International Year of Statistics We have also been exposed to numerous newspaper, magazine, television, and social media pieces on analytics. The media coverage of Big Data has been borderline over-the-top, but it has stimulated interest in statistical methods. I have sometimes joked: “My company is skipping Big Data and moving right to Gigantic Data.” Analytics at its best can create customer insights, enhance decision making, and predict the future. However, analytics is not new and not a panacea. In spite of using “big” datasets, some weather and economic models have performed quite poorly. Amazon, one of the Big Data leaders, often recommends books to me that I have no interest in purchasing. Even if you have the ability to collect all of the data about some phenomenon of interest, the world changes (technology, regulations, behaviors, personal preferences, etc.). Dynamic modeling will be very important in the future. Useless data wastes resources and we should make sure our datasets have integrity (relevant, timely, accurate, and complete information). We also need to be on the lookout for spurious correlations/associations. Along with the promise of increasing our knowledge, Big Data brings with it the potential for privacy issues, hacking, and cyber theft. There are some organizational skills that will continue to be important in organizations: planning data collection, analyzing data, formulating conclusions, communicating findings, and prioritizing organizational actions. There is much to learn from one of the most mature industries in terms of analytics and that is Major League Baseball (MLB). All thirty MLB clubs have strong analytical capabilities. Many teams and individuals under- or over-perform relative to analytical predictions by experts. Some famous, highly-paid players are dramatically underperforming this year. Then along comes Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers seemingly out of nowhere. Puig’s first MLB game was June 3. He has collected 44 hits since breaking the Dodger record. Only Joe DiMaggio had more hits as an MLB rookie in a player’s first calendar month. I doubt if anyone predicted his performance. We should all welcome the wider use of analytics—with caution.

Interesting Stories

I’ve always admired the Perkins Restaurant & Bakery chain because there is an enormous American flag flying at each restaurant which can be seen from quite a distance. I witnessed the Perkins flag changing process last week while eating breakfast. It took two workers and a large ladder. They handled the flags with great care and it was quite an entertaining event to observe.

Company News

Strategic Improvement Systems, LLC will be sponsoring the Fifth Annual Advanced Strategic Improvement Practices Conference on September 17, 2013. The purpose of the conference is to assemble experts from various types of organizations in a beautiful setting to learn with each other how to improve organizations from a strategic perspective. It will be held at the BayView Event Center in Excelsior, Minnesota. The brochure can be accessed by selecting the ANNUAL CONFERENCE button on the home page.

Intriguing Reads

There are several new books on analytics. The one titled, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier, thoroughly describes the Big Data phenomenon. It is non-technical and unabashedly promotes Big Data, but it contains illustrative examples and is a good introduction to the Big Data phenomenon.