Using data to make decisions is critical in business and many companies have become very sophisticated about it. They use real time dashboards about supply chain data, sales data, financial data. They look at key ratios and many even use special algorithms that combine superficially unlinked data to review past performance and predict future performance. A performance analysis can be done anytime and anywhere. Surprisingly though, there is one area where so few companies use data to make strategic decisions - the area of human performance. Sure there are engagement surveys and 360 analysis, but what is the real added value? The data is never real time, it’s often completed with cynicism, and it’s not directly linked to business performance today, tomorrow, next week, and over the next months. Where is the innovation in this area?
I would like to share an example from outside the business world that is considered cutting edge, innovative, world-class, and game-changing. Several years ago, the AC Milan Soccer Club developed a new training facility called the Milan Lab. The heart of the lab is not a modern gym, nor a special training tool - it’s a computer that is fed a lot of different data about the players. They look at on-field performance data such as heart rates, kilometers run, sprints versus walks, shots on goal, etc. Surprisingly, they also collect emotional and psychological data on the players on a weekly basis. Using special algorithms, the computer analyzes all the data and generates a simple traffic light report. Red means this player is not allowed to play today. Orange means this player can play but he is under observation. Green means this player is allowed to play. Finally, blue means this player is at peak performance with resilience. The coach is only allowed to pick the team for a match based on the traffic light report derived from the data they have collected. You may think this is impossible, but the results from using this approach are astonishing:
.01 They reduced the injury rate and severity significantly. In the world of soccer, this is pure capital because it impacts not just the potential performance of the player but also their value to the club.
.02 They realized that age is not a good key criteria for performance. Younger players often were “orange” while several players in their mid 30’s often showed “blue”. Traditionally, players at this age would never get a contract extension but using this innovative approach they did. This added great experience to the team and reduced the cost for new younger, more expensive players.
Let’s transfer this to the business world. Imagine you could do something similar with your key teams. Not for everybody, but just your critical teams that work on the most critical must-win projects. It may be a transformation team, an innovation team, a key account team, a product launch team, or a crisis team. Imagine you had some insights into the real-time human performance side of these teams and as a leader you would know who to push a bit harder and who to hold back a bit.
Imagine you could make sure that you don’t overload your team and force them to crash. Imagine you could make sure that your team could bring their best talent to the table. Imagine you had some insights on how external performance killers such as travel, meetings, emails, conflicting priorities, deadline pressure, etc., were impacting your key players. Imagine you had a dashboard and could do a weekly or monthly analysis on how your key players were doing. Not just from the business numbers, but also from the human performance side of energy, resilience, mental agility, and stamina. You would know if they were Swimming, Floating, or Sinking.
Some might say, “This is impossible,” or “Big brother is watching”. Others may be afraid of this much transparency. We agree and disagree at the same time. While an approach like this could be tricky because within many organizational cultures a person running in “red” may be labeled as “weak” or as a “risk”. In the world of sports, running in “red” is accepted and sometimes part of the deal. They know that the demands are exceptionally high and we are human beings with human limitations based upon our physiology. This may mean that a system such as this would require some trust and guarantee about the usage of personal data. At the same time, we believe that this could be a really valuable approach for critical mission critical teams. After all, what are the consequences of a bad decision during a merger or acquisition? How catastrophic can a bad decision be during a crisis such as an oil spill or a tainted product?
The truth is, these mission critical teams usually consist of highly successful, extremely talented, and well-trained individuals. Does putting them in a pressure cooker and then increasing the temperature without the insights provided by real data really make much sense? Imagine how you could support your critical talent better if you really understood what they needed.
At Tignum, we are fascinated about this topic and have started two research projects to dig deeper. We would love to hear your view on this kind of thinking. Are we crazy? Is this off the chart? Or are we on to something that you would love to explore further. Drop us a note.
By Jogi Rippel
CEO // Founder