The Analytic Management Assistant

by Steve Todd

The Analytic Management AssistantI’ve started writing a series of blog posts about my experiences managing innovation and research activities at EMC Labs China.

Let’s call this “Task X”.

I’ve also been running some serious experiments in Innovation Analytics this year. These experiments highlight “clusters of innovators” around EMC. One of the biggest clusters was Chinese, and a large majority of those within the cluster were from EMC Labs China (they are quite active in EMC innovation activities).

Let’s call this “Data Y”.

I began to wonder: can “Data Y” help me do “Task X”? Can analytics about the people I work with result in an altered management approach?  I would think so. After all, one of the key steps in the Data Analytics Lifecycle is to operationalize the results of the analytics.

I asked EMC Distinguished Engineer John Cardente to revisit the Who Are These People analysis and drill down more deeply into the China cluster. John handed me the chart below containing a set of names with interesting centrality and betweenness characteristics:

The red colors were generated by John as part of a unique algorithm combining centrality, degree, and number of idea submissions.  At first glance, Dong Xiang, for example, appears to be a central figure with a large number of nodes clustered around him.  Ziye Yang has less nodes clustered around him yet his betweenness score is extremely high (this is visually evident by his connection to a sub-graph that is not directly accessible by other members such as Dong).

Can I leverage this data as part of innovation management? I have a theory, or perhaps we can call it a hypothesis:

  • Those with high degree (# connections) can be leveraged to influence what gets done.
  • Those with high centrality (betweenness) can be leveraged to socialize new, compelling ideas.

I know that I am not standing on solid ground with this hypothesis. The data is a bit “small” (it is only relevant to the submission of ideas from our Innovation Showcase). A larger sample size could result in completely different visualizations. But a quick “reality check” during my visit to China allowed me to meet the team and confirm skillsets and observe interactions at a local and international level.

The bottom line is that the visualization presented by John has got me thinking differently.

And interestingly enough, I’m acting differently, too.

Last week I invited Ziye to corporate headquarters to share some compelling new ideas emerging from EMC Labs China. Sure enough, this visit has resulted in a set of potentially new stakeholders and new projects.

My task now is to assess the business value of these new ideas and determine if the idea maps onto the skillsets of the team in China.

image credit: emc.com; innovationplayground.com

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Steve ToddSteve Todd is Director at EMC Innovation Network, and a high-tech inventor and book author “Innovate With Global Influence“. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 180 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground. Twitter: @SteveTodd

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