Mu Sigma held its eighth annual Decision Sciences Summit at the Hyatt Olive 8 in downtown Seattle during the first week of August. Spread across two beautiful days, with Mt. Rainer visible in the distance, and including an evening dinner reception at the Chihuly Garden & Glass at the base of the iconic Space Needle, this year’s Summit drew more than 200 attendees from across multiple industries and continents, including Asia, Australia, and Europe.
The importance of decision sciences and analytics continues to accelerate, especially in light of the barrage of change hitting all industries and markets. But rather than simply keeping up with change, we challenged attendees to orient their decision sciences work toward Capitalizing on Change – the theme for this year’s Summit.
The Summit included a mix of Mu Sigma and client speeches, interactive panel discussions, videos and interactive polls, and as always, an opportunity for attendees to get more hands-on in our learning rooms.
Tapping Organizational Consciousness
Dhiraj Rajaram, Mu Sigma’s founder and CEO, provoked much discussion and debate by sharing some of his latest thinking on what he calls Organizational Consciousness, and how it is imperative for all of us to tap that consciousness in a world of constant change. At the heart of Dhiraj’s message was the assertion that we often try to make things too simplistic and fail to acknowledge the inherent complexity in our businesses. Acknowledging complexity requires us to feel all the interconnections between various entities in the system; in other words, experience consciousness. He explored the differences between organizational intelligence and consciousness, as well as the interplay between culture and consciousness.
To help bring the concept to life, Dhiraj then facilitated a panel discussion with senior executives representing leading brands in retail, private equity and technology. They shared their views on how to avoid the extinction of analytics efforts, and instead set them up to thrive by applying the principles of consciousness.
Tapping At The Intersection Of Transformation And Innovation
The Chief Data Officer of a large insurance and financial services firm traveled all the way from Australia to join us on stage. Responsible for the company’s data and analytics strategy, he opened Day 1 by describing the major transformation that the organization has been undergoing, and what that journey means in terms of his own organization. He further spoke of shifts – such as moving from a perfection mindset to a course correction mindset; from a waterfall to an iterative delivery approach; and from outsourcing models to partnership models.
This conversation was enhanced further by the CMO and President of Digital for a large global drug and convenience retail chain. She spoke of the intersection between transformation and innovation at this retailer with more than 8,200 stores worldwide.
She described change in the context of a more empowered consumer, and shared three case studies: on experimentation in scaling the use of social channels by the brand, on the importance of moving to more intelligent engagement with consumers, and on how her team had to rethink its marketing mix in the light of change.
In both cases, the audience appreciated that the discussions didn’t just dwell on data and analytics, but put decision sciences in the broader context of strategy and organizational change.
Capitalizing On Change Through The Eyes Of Mu Sigma Clients
Our Day 2 lineup featured four senior client executives from different industry backgrounds and functions, each touching on practices that they deem essential to capitalizing on change, including:
- Creating a learning organization, built on growth mindsets as opposed to fixed mindsets
- Incorporating inter-disciplinary perspectives into the analytics work of their organizations
- Allowing for more inefficiency and experimentation in an effort to find more innovation
The digital and customer experience chief of a large banking and financial services corporation described her efforts to drive the digital acceleration of a 203-year-old institution, including efforts to fail fast, fail cheaply, and to constantly test and learn. A senior executive from one of the leading computer technology brands in the US, leading more than 40,000 direct and partner associates who deliver support to the firm’s customers, spoke about the application of decision sciences toward balancing customer experience with operational efficiency.
Another executive from a leading biopharmaceutical company discussed the challenges and opportunities posed by using real world data to revolutionize the delivery of modern healthcare, and what ‘data as a currency’ means to the future of her organization. Lastly, the General Manager of one of the world’s largest Search Businesses, spoke about taking advantage of market volatility in the ads business, as well as dealing with the enormous scale requirements inherent in that business.
The Never-Ending Pursuit Of A Single Truth
This panel session, chaired by two executives – one from the largest energy company and another from a leading insurer – joined Mu Sigma’s Puneet Piplani to discuss the ongoing pursuit of a single truth. The premise of the discussion was that in today’s climate of constant change and complexity, a problem is likely to have multiple right answers rather than a single truth. The group debated this assertion and discussed related challenges like dealing with shortening decision cycles, and what to do when data lies to us. Remember, “In God we trust. All others must bring data!”
Design Thinking Meets Big Data
Zubin Dowlaty, Head of Innovation & Development for Mu Sigma, awakened the designer in each of us. He argued that when it comes to Big Data, organizations are still caught up in outdated modes of thinking, and that it’s time for Big Data to meet some modern thinking – design thinking. Zubin explained with his trademark fervor what design means to each of the disciplines of math, business, and technology, including concepts like “PO” (provoke operation), Voronoi Tessellation, Agent-Based Simulation, and the Red Pill vs. Blue Pill options for Big Data technology architectures.
Watch 2015 Summit Highlights Video
Getting Hands On
Our main ballroom sessions were augmented by three Mu Sigma learning rooms, each sticking to a 20-minute speed-dating format designed to educate attendees and bring to life many of the concepts that were discussed at the Summit. Each learning room was aligned with a layer of what Mu Sigma calls the Decision Support Stack:
Data Engineering Room. Mu Sigma delivery team members answered the following questions: How are Big Data technologies evolving to accelerate better decision making? What architectures can leverage both real-time and historical data in decision making? Relevant topics included: federated architectures, Hadoop’s processes for governance and security, and Lambda architectures.
Data Science Room. Data science is the use of math and technology to solve focused problems. In this room, attendees discussed questions like: How can you get data to talk using visualization? How can you break the barriers of existing predictive algorithms? Relevant topics included: pre-attentive processing, ensemble modeling, and deep learning.
Decision Science Room. Decision science is about the world of murky, interconnected problems. In this room, attendees learned how to optimize analytics for purpose, facilitate smoother consumption of analytics, and incorporate design thinking into their work. Questions addressed included: Can we take a human-centered approach to problem solving and decision making? What is needed to manage a Decision Supply Chain?
Until Next Year
To those who were able to join us in Seattle, we hope you found the experience informative and enjoyable, and that you were able to make new connections across the Mu Sigma client ecosystem. If you weren’t able to join us, please let your account manager know if you’d like to review any of the videos from the Summit. And be sure to join us next year!