Open and relational are going to win

October 14, 2009
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With all the talk about technology, let’s pause to refresh with three basics — culture, conversation, and collaboration. These basics will take center stage in BI’s future, and they’ll help decide which tools dominate.

Lyzasoft CEO Scott Davis and I have been reading the same book, The Culture of Cities by Lewis Mumford. The great thing about Mumford, said Scott, is his mastery of so many subjects, which lets him see relationships and meaning among facts that might otherwise seem irrelevant to each other.

The intelligence that soaks up through every paragraph makes the book a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful chew.

“Think of the most intelligent people you know,” he said. “Are they intelligent because they have an encyclopedic knowledge of facts? Or is it their ability to see relationships? I would say it’s door number two, right?”

Trouble is, we can’t all be Stephen Hawking or Lewis Mumford. That calls for linking of minds. That is, collaboration and conversation. We have to find a way for normal people to find a way to see relationships and offer them.

Train people?, I suggested. Maybe, he replied, but what would that say about the state of BI? It’s



With all the talk about technology, let’s pause to refresh with three basics — culture, conversation, and collaboration. These basics will take center stage in BI’s future, and they’ll help decide which tools dominate.

Lyzasoft CEO Scott Davis and I have been reading the same book, The Culture of Cities by Lewis Mumford. The great thing about Mumford, said Scott, is his mastery of so many subjects, which lets him see relationships and meaning among facts that might otherwise seem irrelevant to each other.

The intelligence that soaks up through every paragraph makes the book a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful chew.

“Think of the most intelligent people you know,” he said. “Are they intelligent because they have an encyclopedic knowledge of facts? Or is it their ability to see relationships? I would say it’s door number two, right?”

Trouble is, we can’t all be Stephen Hawking or Lewis Mumford. That calls for linking of minds. That is, collaboration and conversation. We have to find a way for normal people to find a way to see relationships and offer them.

Train people?, I suggested. Maybe, he replied, but what would that say about the state of BI? It’s natural to have conversations and collaborate. Relevant knowledge and observations bubble up as people focus on something and make associations, gradually raising the group’s insight.

But today, BI platforms make contributing difficult. “BI designers decide what reports are going to be out there, and that’s the well you can drink from.” Instead, people should be as free as in any conversation to make new syntheses, to comment, to recommend — “all the things you’d expect at a dinner party. BI doesn’t feel like a dinner party, does it?”

“I suspect,” he said, “that even though we don’t see it within formal tools, it really is happening, such as through email, spreadmarts, the water cooler and such.”

First comes culture. “If you don’t have that culture that draws people into that practice [of collaboration],” said Scott, “you can have all the tools in the world and it isn’t going to help.”

Next come tools. “There are technological things we can do to make contributing more routine.” He mentioned two mashup tools he likes: JackBe and NetVibes.

The entrenched players are going to change, he predicts. Either Cognos and BO and the others will become a lot more like JackBe and NetVibes, or else companies like JackBe and NetVibes will become the dominant players.

He said, “Ultimately, open and relational are going to win.”


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