Admission #1:  We flunked high school calculus.

[So maybe the teacher had an issue with our mouthing off.]

These days, though, it doesn’t pay to get snarky with math or its proponents.  Because in every hour of our work life, numbers come into play.

Colleagues in our sister industries have similar concerns, especially about media measurement.  That stalwart of our parents’ TV black boxes, Nielsen, recently publicized a solution – its new C7 rating would accommodate a week’s worth of views, the total time spent on different platforms (from Netflix to cable to YouTube), and the average audience size.  In partnership with Facebook, it also aims to deliver age and gender demographics for online video viewers.

Digging in deep, the questions still proliferate:

  • Will this account for the folks who (admission #2:  like us) save TiVO- and Roku-recorded content to replay AFTER a week?  Or those who binge-watch specific series and programs way after their debuts?
  • Will this drill down into audience profiles so we know the true value of what’s being sold and bought?
  • Finally (and probably most significant, in our eyes):  Will this C7 analyze attention – how intently people engage with content?

Hey, advertisers aren’t the only ones who yearn to get those kinds of scores.  Those of us practicing change inside companies haven’t yet figured out employee engagement with content – let alone with the corporation.

Or have we?


Now that the BIG elections are over, can we tell you how much we loathe-despise-detest pollsters?

We’ve learned how to zero out (to avoid the robo-dialers).  Found excuse after excuse to disqualify ourselves from responding to a live questioner. [Try “I gave at the office.”  It’ll flummox them every time.]  Squirmed and gave weird comments to the “other” answer in online surveys.

Yet, somehow, THEY know:  There’s a fellow feeling deep down of compliance, of understanding that it takes 10,000 calls to create a village of 1,000.  Besides, we do the same thing … inside.

So why the avoidance, the need to be, quite simply, contrary? 

It might be because we’re over-surveyed.  Have lost faith in the power and performance of polls.  Witnessed the conflict among numbers in national reports.  Or prefer, honestly, to engage in conversations with those around us, testing what we need to among the groups who know and work with us.  A focus group of friends, if you will.

Is it statistically significant?  Nope.

Can we ferret out real intentions in these dialogues?  Maybe yes.  Maybe no.

When we do want to get a snapshot in the moment of what people know, what they believe, and the actions they follow, this is our preferred route.  It’s like copytesting, probing opinions and communicating both ways.  Asking strangers, even inside corporations, about certain matters is like asking for a leap of faith; many – even if you’ve been referred by the senior-most executives – will either decline politely or go through the answers somewhat mechanically.  Sure, the humongous engagement surveys do get responses.  Sure, they’re anonymous, without attribution.  Yet, there’s no opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts; that “other” bucket receives the venting from many … but it doesn’t answer back.

So when you ask us to sample our opinions, think again, please, about the “how.”  We’re counting on it.


Every other headline – or so it seems – bursts with the tech news of the moment: 

Big Data stalks us. 

Big Data records what I do IRL (in real life). 

Big Data is leading to personalized medicine.

Big Data will recruit me.

Most of these announcements we shrug off, saying B.D. is somewhere between hype and hyperbole, at least for the moment.  What we can’t quite swallow, though, are the digital patterns now being plumbed in what’s called workforce science. 

Proponents say that access to our e-files shows how we work and communicate …  all in efforts to build better workers, who are more innovative, more creative, more productive. 

Detractors clamor about the limits of surveillance, wanting to know what data is being collected and how it’s being used. 

What’s more, Big Blue and Deloitte, among others, are buying up firms that specialize in the algorithms of and insights into employees; the former having acquired Kenexa in 2012; the latter, Bersin in the last few months.  Even eHarmony is mating with different suitors these days, intending to enter the talent search business by revising its codes.

These trends concern us:  It’s one thing to figure out whom to hire and how to recruit through different apps and smarttech.  It’s quite another to dig into our hot buttons, through, say, the email we send and the videos we watch, to calculate motivations and measure productivity.  Companies like Evolv which advises companies on hiring and managing hourly workers through B.D. show promising results for recruiting longer-term call center employees, a notoriously difficult retention task (turnover can be up to 100 percent each year).  On the other hand, when data scientists note that call centers are our “initial focus,” inquiring minds think otherwise. 

It’s your turn, dear reader.  Shades of Big Brother or the (mostly) harmless progress of life?


Lately, our conversations have been filled with “whys,” not statements of facts or certainties.

One reason:  (Occasionally) unharnessed curiosity, which leads us to tons of questions, zip answers.  Another, we think, is due to a recent yearning for utility, for function, for concrete actions and behaviors.  Asking why gets us, eventually, to outcomes, to the goals our clients and our companies want to achieve. 

Which, in themselves, are usually aspirational, rather than realizational.  Yet the demands placed on each of us in our worlds, from branding and change to design and communications, are almost always for useful objectives.  Like these: 

“Get more of our targets to ‘like’ us.”

               “Create apps to drive purchases.”

          “Personalize the brand-consumer conversation.”

     “We must be able to measure an increase in engagement – and retention.”

It’s the behaviors that matter today – not only the ultimate buy, but also the universe of buy-ins. 

But will out doings activate useful results?  A few decades ago, former White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater claimed, “The press briefing today I believe has lost much of its usefulness.”  [Sad:  Still true in 2013.]  How many employees understand what HR decisions, from benefits to performance, they need to make – and do so correctly, in their own interests?  Do our campaigns, internal and external, help our constituencies save time, deepen experiences, broaden connections, and/or provide more control?  Will we, in short, be measured against corporate dimensions of usefulness?

Dilbert creator Scott Adams summarizes our dilemma well:  “Be careful that what you write does not offend anybody or cause problems within the company.  The safest approach is to remove all useful information.”