Posts filed under “Speaking”

Rahaf named to Hay 30 “Future Thinkers” List


Image result for hay on wye festival 2016


In celebration of it’s 30th Anniversary, the Hay Literary Festival created the “Hay 30” a list of 30 young writers and thinkers who will help shape and imagine the world in the next 30 years.

I am incredibly honored to have been included in this selection!

This weekend, I will be traveling to the charming United Kingdom village of Hay-on-Wye, to participate in the festival and share some of my research on digital intimacy, and the implications of living in a Data Abundant World.

You can find the entire list here.

Chinese Edition of The Decoded Company!

Instragram: @foushy

A quick post to share some news!

I just received one of the first copies of the Chinese Edition of The Decoded Company! I’m so happy that our work will continue to reach new markets!

Hopefully, this will lead to more trips to Asia, one of the places I haven’t visited as much as I’ve wanted to!


Over-Connected: The psychology of information consumption

This post, is a part of my thinking and research for my new book, centred around the tensions between productivity and creativity. You can follow other related entries here


I was  excited to be invited to keynote the Management and Business Summit in Madrid, Spain last week. I spoke about the intersection of technology, analytics, and marketing. In particular, I focused on how our relationship with information has changed and the potential impact on brands. In this post, I want to focus on our relationship with information and some of the underlying factors at play that push us to be over-connected. What does it mean to be over-connected? Today, thanks to the proliferation of technology we have the ability to constantly engage with information. From Kindles and iPads to cellphones and smart television we have never lived in a time where connectivity was so ubiquitous. Everyone has something to say and everyone wants to be heard.


From Limited with Fixed End to Unlimited & Open Ended 

To understand why we are drowning in information we need to spend some time tracing our evolving relationship with information. We are currently in the process of shifting towards an unlimited and open ended information ecosystem. Traditionally, we have operated on a foundation of data scarcity. Think back to when the newspaper and the evening news were your source of information. Whether it’s textbooks or the current event section, we have grown up in a world where there was always an end point. A finite moment we we’re done – we’ve accumulated all the necessary information to needed to master Grade 12 Chemistry or AP English. Now this is no longer the case – there is never an end point and we are battling years of conditioning to be ok with that.

My nephew was recently working on a school paper about the viscosity of lard and he was having trouble getting it done because he kept finding more and more research and information that he could source. He was looking for that end point. When I explained to him that he would never be able to read every single article about this topic before his deadline, he became upset. “How will I know that I know everything that I need to know about this subject?” He asked. And the best that I could offer was that eventually, you did reach a point where you were reasonably informed about general issues and had to make a call to stop researching and start writing.

As an author, I constantly struggle with this. It’s the reason why ArchiTechs never became a book and instead has become an ongoing series of essays. I kept waiting for that end point, and I never found it. Now, I’ve had to teach myself how to be ok with not knowing everything, and finding that point where I’m confident enough to be able to make a research-based claim while knowing that there is always a risk that somewhere out there could be a piece of information that could change everything.

Today, information is more fluid and we’ve developing a constant work in progress mentality that is different from the way we’ve been taught to evaluate information in the past. This new landscape has created some anxiety for us as consumers since I believe we are still unconsciously looking for that end point and explains why we sometimes get sucked into these information black holes – we’re looking for an anchor point that no longer exists and that is creating a struggle in how we interact with information.


 Triangulating the Truth: 

It’s not just the amount of information we have to process but the types of information. It used to be that only experts, journalists, and authors had the ability to share information.  Now, anyone can set up a website and start publishing information in minutes. This has made identifying the truth to be far more complicated. It’s easier than ever to cover up allegiances, sponsorship, and political leanings and we must be vigilant in questioning the validity of our sources. Our grasp on what’s happening is less defined than what we’re used to and this creates a need to continuously seek out information to help inform our point of view.  I think about how internet hoaxes, faked news stories, and other events have made me far less trusting of online content than I used to be. This distrust has made us extra careful, and I know that I always spend extra time double and triple checking any online source of information just to make sure it’s accurate.

This has become more difficult with the rise of native advertising – sponsored content that can pass for journalist editorial, making it difficult to separate unbiased reporting from corporate agendas. Jon Olliver has done a great piece on the threat of native advertising and the risk that it poses in disseminating information that takes an interesting twist on the truth.


I believe that teaching our children how to critically evaluate information is going to be a key survival skill in today’s information economy. We have to teach them to ask questions, investigate the source and to always be on the look out for misleading or biased information. We need to teach them how to triangulate the truth, to peel back the layers. Information is our greatest weapon, but it’s also something that can be used against us if we’re not careful.



Pavlov’s Dogs: Obessed with Notifications 

Finally, let’s not discount the cognitive impact that comes from being constantly connected. Research has shown that when our devices ding with a notification, a small amount of dopamine is released into our brains. We’ve inadvertently trained ourselves to anticipate and look forward to those small dings and beeps. We get a rush from being stimulated, from being connected with other people, from following breaking news.

I believe we have developed an expectation of constant stimulation due to over-connectivity that could be troubling. I recently read an experiment where people were left alone in a room with nothing in it except a device that shocked them when they touched it. They were told to wait for the experiment to start but the real study was to see how people coped with boredom. It turns out – not well. Participants all used the machine – basically we have become people who would rather cause ourselves pain than sit around and do nothing.


TL:DR:  We have an outdated model of information organization that is pushing us to find the fixed end – a mythical creature on it’s way to extinction in the age of the Internet. We have an unlimited amount of content to feed our desire and we’ve created a physiological reward mechanism that is training us to continuously engage with our devices and remain in a state of over stimulation. We need to develop a better approach to manging information, and I’ll be sharing my thoughts on that in an upcoming blog post.


If you’re interested in staying updated about my research, upcoming books and the cool things I find online, sign up for my monthly newsletter and get my best stuff first. Subscribe here!   I also keynote about many of these subjects and am happy to design custom content for your event. 

Technical Literacy and Budget: 2 Hurdles for Big Data? [Amsterdam]


Thalys Train

This post is a part of my thinking around the concepts I wrote about in my latest book, “THE DECODED COMPANY: KNOW YOUR TALENT BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS.”  You can see some of my other thoughts about big data, organizational culture and talent management HERE

I’m currently writing this from the Thalys train that is speeding from Amsterdam back to Paris. I am marvelling at the wonders of the modern age: traveling between two countries (three if you count our stop in Brussels) is seamless and I am comfortable and happy thanks to roomy seats and free wifi. One of the main benefits of living in Europe has been access to these amazing trains systems. I always prefer trains to the security hassle of removing shoes and putting liquids in tiny plastic bags. 

I was in Amsterdam keynoting  an event, and the conversations I had with some of the attendees afterwards got me thinking. Data literacy and budget constraints are the two hurdles I hear about most frequently that are standing in the way of organizations interested in embracing the Decoded Model.


1. The Decoded Model is a Philosophy

The great thing about the Decoded Model is that it encompasses a unifying philosophy to integrate analytics, not just a tactical response. This means that you can have 10 companies who are using the Decoded Model in 10 very different ways. This isn’t a solution  you pull off a shelf and plug into your organization. It’s a very powerful resource that helps bridge strategic vision,  cultural objectives and analytics together in a cohesive and coordinated way. So if you’re a small team or a huge multinational, our thinking around people, technology, and culture can be successfully implemented.


2. Being Decoded is not binary: It’s a spectrum

For some reason, there is this weird, persistent belief that implementing Big Data initiatives is an all or nothing approach. This is not true! Being Decoded falls on a broad spectrum. A small team who is looking to implement Technology as a Coach to create customized learning is going to have a different budget and scale than a company with 30,000 employees seeking to do the same. They are both applying the principle but in very different ways. This is good news: it means that no matter what your constraints are there is a spot for you to become Decoded in a way that makes sense for you and your team. This goes double for your technical competency: you don’t have to know how to code or be familiar with databases and algorithms to get started. In writing the book, we made sure to include experiments and easy to complete tasks that addressed a variety of skill levels.


3. Money isn’t the issue.

The other big issue that gets mentioned quite often is always about money. Isn’t data expensive? Clients tell me that they don’t have the budget to invest in customized analytical solutions. Once again, budget is a constraint that falls on a spectrum. A small company with limited budget shouldn’t have to invest hundreds of thousands (or millions) into a customized platform. It doesn’t make sense! Instead, when looking at the Decoded Model know that there are many inexpensive or free tools that can help you get started without a large capital investment.

I should note that while there are a multitude of ways to implement data and analytics inexpensively, doing so will always require a significant investment of time: it will take awhile to familiarize yourself with the new and available tools and  to deeply examine your own systems and processes to spot areas where you can apply the Model. I wrote a few months ago about some easy ways for companies to track their productivity, that you can use to help you get started right away.


Don’t Psych Yourself Out!

The biggest hurdle is often a mental one: letting go our beliefs or assumptions about what we think big data and how we can use it to make better decisions. Remember, if you have a piece of paper and a pen – you can be Decoded. Know how to use an excel spreadsheet? You can be Decoded. Have a budget of $0? You can be Decoded.

Interested in applying the Decoded Model to your team? Check out my MasterClass.



If you’re interested in staying updated about my research, upcoming books and general cool things I find online, sign up for my monthly newsletter and get my best stuff first. Subscribe!  

Be Informed Not Afraid. Don’t let Big Data Scare You.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 11.23.04 AM

The Arcadia (via P&O Events)

This post is a part of my thinking around the concepts I wrote about in my latest book, “THE DECODED COMPANY: KNOW YOUR TALENT BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS.”  You can see some of my other thoughts about big data, organizational culture and talent management HERE


Data Is Everyone’s Responsibility

Last week, I had the opportunity to keynote the IT Directors Summit and HR Forum at a very interesting venue: a cruise ship. Getting there was an adventure, my very own version of trains, planes and automobiles! I took the Eurostar from Paris to London followed by the Gatwick Express to the airport. I few to Guernsey, a small island in the UK that is apparently also a phenomenal tax shelter. Finally, I boarded a small tender that took me aboard the Arcadia.

I spoke about the importance of understanding the possibility of analytics – not just from a technical standpoint but from a strategic and cultural perspective as well. Too often, many people assume that Big Data (or not-so-big data as we call it) is outside of their job function – and this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is this: data is everyone’s responsibility.

As an employee it is up to you to be informed and engaged with your organization’s data policies. We must each be accountable for own data footprint and that means asking for clarity and transparency when needed.

  • Do you know exactly what data your employers are tracking?
  • Do you know how they collect it?
  • What do they do with it?


The Vital Role of Transparency: The Corporate Public Record

Many employers cover some of these policies in handbooks but it never hurts to get extra clarifications. For example, many organizations use swipe cards for security purposes.  At my co-authors’ company, Klick, the door swipe data is used to track your location and the number of steps you take – information that has been very transparently communicated and easy for people to access and understand. Klick has taken the time to explain to their employees exactly what purpose they have in mind for the data: in this case the number of steps is used to foster friendly competition between colleagues to see who can take the most steps and encourage a culture where people make healthy choices by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Guernsey. Flickr: stephoto, CC

As an employer or manager, you must make sure you asking the right questions about any new data initiatives to make sure they are ethical, transparent, and helping to build a positive work culture. In The Decoded Company, we outline a set of guidelines to help executives assess the ethicalness of their policies. We stress the importance of being open and transparent about the data being collected and introduce the concept of the Corporate Public Record – job-focused metrics that can be used to measure performance without invading an employee’s privacy.  Too often, we let technology or a desire for more data blind us to the cultural ramification of introducing invasive data policies that end up breaking trust and damaging the working environment.


Pairing Culture and Analytics Is Key

Klick has been very clear about not using data for punitive purposes. The swipe card data that tracks when you get into work and when you leave are never used against you in performance reviews or reprimands. However, it is used to help Klick’s managers make better informed decisions. For example, if an employee has stayed late several nights in a row, Klick’s analytical system will ping their manager to let them know there might be a workflow issue. The purpose of this data is to help establish organizational culture norms: Klick values work/life balance and the company does not want to see employees staying late. This information is used to start a conversation that can uncover an underlying issue such as the need to hire more staff to handle demand. It enables managers to spot an employee who is at risk of being burned out and overworked before disaster strikes.


Interested in applying the Decoded Model to your team? Check out my MasterClass!


If you’re interested in staying updated about my research, upcoming books and general cool things I find online, sign up for my monthly newsletter and get my best stuff first. Subscribe!