Friday, April 27, 2007

The Plural of Anecdote is Data

Perhaps the most memorable quote of the STM meeting was dropped by MIT Sloan School of Management Economist Erik Brynjolfsson, who directs the Center for Digital Business. (It turns out the quote is attributable to Berkeley Political Scientist Raymond Wolfinger, who apparently coined it in the 60s or 70s. Lots of people quote its opposite [The plural of anecdote is NOT data] and try to attribute the source of that quote...Isn't Google great for trivia questions?)

Of course, his talk had a lot more going for it: he presented an analysis of information flows in organizations and correlated individuals at the hub of information exchanges with higher revenue-producing employees. (Again somewhat counterintuitive, I suppose depending on the industry.) In the executive recruiter industry he presented, it makes sense that those who are at the center of communication may also be the biggest rainmakers or producers as the industry is by definition about networking.

Measuring productivity among knowledge workers was another main theme of the talk. He noted wryly that the simple equation productivity = output/input suffers only from the difficulty of measuring, well, inputs and outputs. (It did remind us, however, that working longer hours doesn't increase productivity, because you are increasing input...)

He summarized the best practices of digital firms, many of which seem to be common sense (e.g. "Hire the best people") but described more fully ways to implement them (Set up rigorous screening and extensive interview processes.)

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