Wake Up or Die

"In the life and death quest for strategic change businesses have much to learn from war."

- Wake Up or Die, page 131

Big data is a hot topic these days, which makes Corrine Sandler’s book, Wake Up or Die, very timely. Using military leadership theories from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Sandler outlines why the use of data as intelligence in organizations is critical and guides us through the strategies and tactics for embedding analytics deeply into your organization. You might have already started down the big data path, but knowing how to use data as business intelligence for making decisions and changes can give you a powerful market advantage. Sandler tells us what we need to do in the war-like battle for market domination.

The volume of data we generate – 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day, according to Sandler – makes this a daunting challenge. But it means the answers are there if you know how to find them, what to do with the information you gain, and you have a willingness to make the change needed to use the data to your advantage.

According to Sandler, “data needs to be incorporated into business processes with great care in order to properly lead business operations onto the path of achieving their individual strategic objectives.”

Let’s start by talking about why data gives you the competitive advantage you need.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Use Data Intelligence For World Domination

"...it’s all about having superior intelligence and the wisdom to use this intelligence in a transformational way."
- Wake Up or Die, page 20

Ok, so maybe your goal isn’t world domination and your industry likely isn’t a battlefield, but using data and gathering intelligence is critical, as it allows you to understand the market and your competitors, as well as make course corrections along the way. Similar to using spies in military intelligence, business intelligence allows you to get into the minds of your customers and competitors and create what is needed, well ahead of other players. As Sun Tzu notes in The Art of War, ‘Being prepared for all circumstances is what ensures certain victory.’

“…insights, defined as penetrating truths that you never knew existed and which through intuitive understanding and immediate action allow you to gain a superior advantage.”

Establishing channels for gathering business intelligence is not just a matter of setting up a few Google Alerts, although it can start there. It requires a detailed implementation plan, from analyzing your current state to tracking against specific metrics and outcomes.

Once you have the data, it can allow you to make critical changes if you know how to use it.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Use Data To Rethink Everything

"If you want to change the way a company acts, you have to begin with changing how it thinks."
- Wake Up or Die, page 37

Sandler outlines several models for using business intelligence to rethink how you compete successfully, and provides great examples, from Kimberly-Clark to the US Army, of businesses that have made significant operational changes through the use of market intelligence. The solution isn’t just about pulling data from various sources, but integrating it into your strategies and project plans effectively.

Sandler also notes that a different form of leadership is also needed, one that allows employees to run with ideas. It requires being open to new possibilities and allowing employees to change existing approaches in pursuit of new ones if business intelligence is providing the signals.  She encourages leaders to allow employees to explore opportunities through “blue sky” sessions and encourage them to rethink the status quo. Using data intelligence as a springboard for creativity can be a continual source of inspiration.

Once you have the intelligence and ideas you need though, you still need to take action.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Intelligence + Decision-Making = Advantage

"Whether it’s business or whether it’s war, you have to generate better information than your rivals do, analyze that information and move quickly to turn strategic choices into decisive action."
- Wake Up or Die, page 22

Data, like ideas, is worthless unless change can be created from it. Knowing how to analyze your data is one thing, but being able to successfully initiate and implement change in your organization goes along with it. Sandler emphasizes the need to build decision-making processes to allow you to take advantage of new information and create new solutions ahead of your competitors.

Data can also be used as an early warning system, allowing you to anticipate where issues occur before they become overwhelming. As Sandler notes, “a resilient company anticipates crisis and objectively determines what the consequences might be.” In our world of disruptive change, resilience is a key competency for survival and success.

I have increased the use of analytics with my clients over the past few years, and while I can safely say I have never evoked war terminology in my work, I really connected with Sandler’s passion for data intelligence, and the higher-level thinking and outcomes it brings to your work. Wake Up or Die will help you build the strategies you need to incorporate data intelligence and go boldly forward to conquer the business world. Harnessing data and using it to solve problems and set new directions will give you a strong competitive advantage over your enemies on the corporate battlefield.

Share your experience with optimizing data and intelligence in your “war to win” in the comments below…

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Alyssa Burkus

ABOUT Alyssa Burkus

As a consultant, I work with entrepreneurs and senior leaders through periods of significant change in their organizations, by delivering strategies, new programs, and coaching to build the workplace foundation they need to shift their company to new levels...
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