The Quantified Executive

Withings Wearable Technology I'm wearing a Jawbone UP bracelet, have a Withings Pulse in my pocket, a WS-50 Withings scale in the bathroom, a Withings blood pressure cuff by my bed, I walk every day with a Polar Bluetooth Heart Monitor strapped to my chest, log every morsel of food I put into my body and I'm correlating data between the Withings, MyFitnessPal, UP and RunKeeper Apps in Excel. I'm probably generating several MB per week just quantifying myself... then... every one of my clients has a "big data" or a data-driven marketing project to discuss with me. There are Exabytes of data being generated daily that we must sort through to do our jobs, by any definition we are "Quantified Executives."

I like this topic for all kinds of reasons. First and foremost, it's never going away. As we adapt to living and working in a connected world, we are going to have to learn to assimilate, process and ultimately derive insights from the wealth of data we generate and collect.

Then, there is the "fun" factor. Knowing that 3,500 calories = 1 pound is a powerful piece of intelligence for personal managing health, fitness and weight loss. But it gets even more interesting when applying it to dinner guests or restaurant patrons or shoppers at Wally World. Can you identify shoppers by weight, or proclivity to quantify themselves, or potential to purchase a certain amount of high calorie foods? If someone is part of the quantified self movement (people who spend a lot of time monitoring their health with sensors), how does new set of behaviors modify their old set of behaviors?

Then, there's the math. It's awesome! I love projecting my weight over time or playing "what if" with my calorie intake. For me, it's the newish new thing, but will it last?

Looking to the Future

My guess is that the tools I'm using today will evolve into invisible technologies (like voicemail) that work all the time and no one ever thinks about. Did Anthony Weiner think he was posting pictures of his privates on public websites? No. He thought he was sending private pictures of his privates privately to paramours he could trust. Hummm... maybe Anthony Weiner is a bad example... OK, did Tiger Woods know he was leaving a digital audio recording on an un-secured, remote server? No, he thought he was leaving a voicemail. He had no idea it would be saved as a file and distributed like a pirated song. The technology to quantify our lives and our businesses will ultimately become invisible and advances and familiarity weave them into the fabric of our lives.

So, what can you do to prepare yourself to be a world-class quantified executive?

I'd start with something super simple like a personal monitoring device. It could be an app for walking, a bracelet or fob that tracks your steps or sleep - even a daily blood pressure or heart rate. Collecting this data and analyzing it will help you practice the kinds of math you're going to start to use everywhere in your life.

If you hated high school math or just made it through Stats 101 in college, now is a great time to learn some functions in Excel. There is more to quantification than AVG or SUM. See how AVEDEV or LOGNORMDIST help you project and chart your data.

Then, there's the "art" part of the "art and science" of quantification: insights.

The ultimate goal of this intellectual exercise is to use the data to help you make better decisions. The bad news is that everyone in the civilized world will be trying to use data to make better decisions. The good news is that you have a unique ability to apply your personal experience to any data set, and that gives you a unique edge.

How you see the world today and how you will see the world as a Quantified Executive are two different things. Albert Einstein once said, "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted." He was a pretty smart guy... but he didn't have your data. You do, so use it well.