If you have ever used the tube (metro) system in London
during rush hour, you’ll know it isn’t the sort of place where you can stand around
and admire the surroundings. Like most
bustling cities, there is a focus on movement;
there is a sea of people filling every conceivable space. Anyone who dares move at a glacial pace is at
risk of getting swept along with the crowd like a twig in a fast flowing river,
or even worse they might be greeted by the passive-aggressive ‘tut’ of an
exhausted commuter. It seems that
everyone is determined to get to their destination, trying to edge further and
further forward without pushing or making contact with anyone else. Like some kind of silent and choreographed
‘commuter dance’, It is fascinating to watch, and fascinating to be part
I have travelled on the Jubilee Line from Waterloo Station countless times. Most times, I am navigating my way through the crowds, with my brain and eyes focussed mainly on the immediate few feet in front of me. Only fairly recently, when travelling very late at night (when the station was empty) did I look up and notice there is literally an elephant in the room. More specifically, there is a sculpture of an elephant above the escalators. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture 🙂
is little doubt that social media platforms have created new ways for people to
interact with each other. Whether it’s staying in touch with friends,
exchanging holiday snaps or “debating” the day’s hot political issues
with strangers, there’s bound to be a place for it somewhere in the
social-mediasphere. In fact, if you are ever feeling brave, scroll down
into the comments sections of most news articles. Often there is a
treasure-trove of opinion, ranging from well-considered and well-considered
arguments and counter arguments, right through to knee-jerk assertions from
people who have done little more than read the headline. Of course, everyone is
entitled to their opinion, and this type of forum provides a useful space for
was recently drawn into reading the comments section on an article about snow
(a relatively rare occurrence in the South of the UK, and one that tends to hit
the transport infrastructure fairly hard). The comments ranged from
constructive ideas, through to moral outrage, through to individuals expressing
clear objection to certain political ideologies. To a certain
extent, this makes sense, but I suspect that of the hundreds of authors of
those comments, precisely (or nearly) zero:
Although it was more years ago than I like to admit, I can
still firmly remember my time at high-school (or ‘senior school’ as we call it
here in the UK). As with most schools,
there were cliques and divisions, and it was a time when everyone was finding their
identity and trying to prove how ‘cool’ they were. As is common in the UK, my school had a
prescribed uniform, so there were very few ways that identity could be
outwardly expressed. Some people chose
to shorten their ties (rebels!), and others covered their exercise books in
colourful wallpaper (shocking!).
However, one way identity could definitely
be expressed was with the type of bag
that you carried.
organisations position themselves as being customer-centric, and in doing so
consciously put the customer front-and-centre of their decision making.
In a dynamic and competitive business environment, this is a sensible move. In many
industries competition is rife and the cost of switching is low, and it may
even be possible for a customer to change supplier at the click of a
button. In this type of environment, being efficient whilst also
understanding customer needs is of upmost importance.
thinking, quite logically, permeates into change initiatives too. As analysts,
we have a whole range of techniques that allow us to understand customers, put
ourselves in their shoes, and create exploratory models. Perhaps we use
elicitation techniques such as focus groups, market research or questionnaires.
Perhaps we develop personas, customer journeys, scenarios and use a range
of other techniques that help us to ensure that we’ve fully considered the
types of experience that our customers will have. This is sensible,
surely? I mean nobody would argue against customer centricity, would
JDI and it’s slightly more risqué cousin ‘JFDI’ are management maxims that we have probably all come across from time to time. The acronym ‘JDI’ stands for ‘Just Do It’, and its implications are that we should stop thinking about anything except the immediate task at hand, and plough on—often without questioning the validity of the task or considering whether the results of the task will actually be desirable.
It has to be said that there are some contexts where JDI really is the best approach—where urgent action without deliberation or hesitation is necessary. If you are in a meeting and the fire alarm goes off, there is some very clear action that needs to be taken (evacuate via the nearest and safest escape route). This is likely to be fairly uncontroversial, and even if people had different views on how the situation could be handled, the urgency of getting out of the danger is sufficient enough that we need to quickly decide, commit to action, and then ‘Just Do It’. Of course, once you are out, there will be time to reflect and it is highly likely that someone will want to assess the root causes of the problem (in this case the fire).
I’ve always thought that one of the ‘fun’ parts of travelling by air is the in-flight meal. When packed in economy, there’s a real art to opening the foil or cellophane wrapped food items without showering the contents over yourself or a fellow passenger. This is made even more problematic if, like me, you enjoy the occasional beer in the airport before the flight…
On a recent trip, I was given the usual choice of chicken or pasta, and alongside the main course there was a cookie. After ravenously demolishing the main course (I always seem to sit in an area that is last to be served) my attention turned to the cookie—which was curiously labelled as an anytime cookie.I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this as it immediately triggered an image in my mind of the Cookie Monster saying “All cookies are anytime cookies! Me eat cookies all day!”. But, being the self-confessed BA geek that I am, my thoughts then immediately came back to business analysis and logic…
As BAs and professionals that help enable value to be created and captured, we deal a lot with logic. We use models and other ways of communicating that allow us to convey complicated concepts concisely and precisely. Yet when eliciting information we typically have to rely on everyday language—and if we are not careful these conversations can be filled with tacit assumptions and misunderstandings when we play them back.
Problem solving and organisational learning are two topics that are closely related to each other. So often, organisations appear to be ‘hard-wired’ in a way that they means they focus on solving immediate problems without spending time assessing root causes. It is all-too-easy to get caught in a fire-fighting doom-loop where symptoms are addressed rather than root causes, and everyone is consumed with tactical ‘busy-work’. This is akin to a motorist who keeps topping up their car with engine oil but doesn’t look for a leak. This works well for weeks until the leak suddenly gets worse and the engine is ruined in a catastrophic and expensive failure.
I was mulling this over recently whilst eating at a breakfast buffet in a hotel. I went to get a glass of juice, only to find there were no glasses left. No problem, I thought, I’ll let one of the hotel staff know and they’ll get it fixed. I caught the eye of a friendly waitress and explained the predicament, she apologetically looked at the empty shelf and immediately went away to put things right. She came back within minutes, clutching a single glass—passing it on to me. I said thank you, and before I could say anything further she smiled and scurried off to her next task. It was very busy, and I suspect she was under quite a lot of pressure to ensure her list of tasks were completed.
In today’s blog post, we break from our usual format to bring you an interview with Dr Liz Calder of Blue Raccoon . I saw Liz’s presentation discussing cognitive biases at the BA Conference Europe 2017, and was keen to find out more (particularly as Liz had developed an entire course on the subject)! Liz has such a wide range of experience, in organisations large and small, and she brings insights from psychology and behavioural economics into her work.
I recently caught up with Liz for a ‘virtual’ chat, and she shared some really interesting insight:
1. You’ve spoken at a number of conferences about cognitive biases. What exactly is a cognitive bias?
A Cognitive Bias is an intrinsic error in the way people think. Every day we make hundreds of decisions, some big and some small. There isn’t enough time in the day to weigh up all the facts for every decision we make so the brain uses mental shortcuts for speed. These shortcuts are a mixture of inherent behaviour and previous experience and, in order to be quick, the brain simplifies issues and throws out a lot of the information available to it. Because of this simplification the outcome is not always the one you get if you take the time to logically analyse a situation. Because they happen so quickly we aren’t even aware these shortcuts are happening; we just decide on something and move on.
The conference gets bigger every year and, I’m pleased to say that there are still tickets available — so if you’ve been thinking about attending, it’s not too late! You can find out more details about the conference by clicking the link below. And remember, IIBA UK members are entitled to a 15% discount.
I highly recommend attending the conference, if you can. There are fantastic presentations from real-world practitioners, and there’s also the opportunity to relax and chat over a beer (or two) after the conference has closed. If you haven’t been before, I’d highly recommend taking a look.
If you’re attending, drop me an e-mail or tweet and we can catch up.
See you there?
PS — if you can’t make it to London, I’m equally excited to say that I’ll also be presenting at the BA Summit Southern Africa, in Johannesburg in October and also the Building Business Capability conference in San Antonio, Texas, USA in November. My sessions are entitled “Leading from the Middle: Influencing & Delivery in Tricky Projects” and “Problem Analysis for Innovation: Your Practical Toolbox!”. Then, in May 2019, I’ll be speaking at European BA Day.
All of these conferences provide an excellent opportunity to network and meet other BAs.